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:: Paycheck

The premise at the heart of Paycheck is intriguing. An engineer finishes a job, the time he took to do the job has been erased from his memory to protect copyright, and in exchange he gets a hefty pay cheque. But when he goes to collect he discovers that he forfeited the money in exchange for an envelope of seemingly useless everyday objects. He can’t remember doing it and has no idea why. And now people are trying to kill him. So far, so good.

John Woo’s film is based on a Phillip K Dick short story and deals with the writer’s usual themes, identity, and the nature of reality, which can be trusted. John Woo has added his own trademarks to the film, the dove that comes out of nowhere and looks like a bad computer effects job, the ridiculous Mexican stand off, not once but twice. He even steals the motif of a briefcase filled with light from Pulp Fiction, going from the imitated to the imitator. In his efforts to become a pale imitation of himself, Woo has completely forgotten elements such as character, logic and even an ounce of credibility.

Ben Affleck plays the embattled engineer and it is about time someone in Hollywood realised that he is not leading man material. He is bland, unconvincing and truly laughable when he tries to be charming or meaningful. Uma Thurman doesn’t fare much better, but at least she spends less time on screen. Aaron Eckhart, as the villain, would surely have been twirling his moustache if he had one, his performance is hammy in the extreme. The only shining light is Paul Giammati (American Splendour), who fills every moment on screen with life and humour and it only serves to highlight the paucity of the rest of the cast.

The effects are surprisingly dodgy. It seems like little effort has been put into making the technological advances of this near future even remotely credible, and many of the early sequences will probably elicit laughter.

Even those expecting a mindless action film will be disappointed. The chase sequences are badly staged, nothing new or innovative about them. The fights are unrealistic and dull. Even when Uma Thurman gets into the fray, there’s nothing of the Kill Bill about her here.

John Woo has gotten progressively worse with each film he has made in Hollywood. Mission Impossible 2 was worse that Face/Off and Face/Off was worse than every other film he made in Hong Kong. I dread to think what the next one will be like.