Reviewed by: Claire Sawers

Ben Affleck plays Michael Jennings, a hot-shot scientist in huge demand by high-tech corporations all over the world. They want him for his brain.

He makes big bucks by stealing ideas from other companies and recreating the technology. At the end of each job, he has a specific section of his memory erased so that he can't remember what he just completed. So far, so sci-fi.

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Jennings is raking in the cash, but obviously can't resist the bigger, better deal. He agrees to do a job for a childhood pal (Aaron Eckhart) and is promised an eight figure sum - count 'em! - in return for three years of his life that will be wiped completely from his memory.

When the mystery assignment is completed, he has no recollection whatsoever and - surprise, surprise - no paycheck. All he has is an envelope with a series of seemingly random objects that he has mailed to himself, which turn out to be clues to his past. With these, he might be able to piece together the puzzle and work out who has done the dirty on him.

The plot has some nice ideas, which is not surprising when you realise that the original story was by Philip K Dick, best known for sci-fi classics, Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. Unfortunately, this adaptation is nowhere near as impressive.

It's certainly action packed, thanks to Hong Kong kung-fu maestro John Woo. Ever since moving to Hollywood, he's insisted on cramming his films with stylish fight scenes and OTT stunts.

Paycheck is no different, with car chases, motorbike stunts, fist fights, gunfights and even stick fights. There are also plenty of explosions, mostly filmed in slow-motion.

The film does look good, as do its stars Affleck and Uma Thurman. You can't help wondering why they chose to do this type of thing. For Thurman, it may remind you of Gattaca, where she played the on/off screen lover of future husband Ethan Hawke. This time, the love interest with Affleck has no depth to it at all.

As a punch-em-up, Paycheck is well done, but nothing we haven't seen before. As for the plot of time-travel and sci-fi gadgets being used for all the wrong reasons, it should be full of cool ideas and interesting questions.

Unfortunately, like Jennings, it has too much brawn and not enough brain.

Reviewed on: 15 Jan 2004
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A hot shot scientist who gives up his memory for the cause, finds himself on the run as he tries to piece together his past.
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Director: John Woo

Writer: Dean Georgaris, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick

Starring: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Joe Morton

Year: 2003

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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