While PAYCHECK ($30) is certainly an entertaining enough action thriller, the film isn’t representative of director John Woo’s finest work. Sure, Woo carries off the action sequences with aplomb, but weaknesses in the screenplay prevents the film from rising above standard movie fare much of the time. Personally, I found PAYCHECK to be quite enjoyable while I was watching it, but like so much fast food, this movie is little more than a whole lot of empty calories that one is unlikely to remember after the meal. In the film’s favor, PAYCHECK takes its most intriguing concepts from a Philip K. Dick story, and integrates Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite theme of the "innocent man falsely accused" to tell a slightly futuristic and action based tale.
PAYCHECK stars Ben Affleck as Michael Jennings, a somewhat unscrupulous engineer who earns a rather lucrative living by reverse engineering hi-tech products for even more unscrupulous corporations. Of course, these unscrupulous corporations want no evidence to implicate them in the theft of another company’s intellectual property, so at the end of Michael’s tenure, his employers erase his memory before giving him a hefty paycheck. Although his assignments typically entail giving up two month segments of his life and memories, Michael is offered the paycheck of a lifetime, if he accepts the three year reverse engineering assignment being offered by Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), an old friend and head of the Allcom corporation.
As one might expect, Michael accepts the job and three years quickly pass. However, after his memories are erased, Michael learns that he has signed away his paycheck in lieu of a packet containing some inconsequential personal items. Making matters even worse, Michael discovers that the authorities are pursuing him, in addition to the assassins that are gunning for him. Trying to piece together what happened to him in the last three years, Michael finds out that he has been living with a beautiful biologist named Rachel (Uma Thurman), not to mention that his small collection of seemingly inconsequential personal items have managed to save his life on more than one occasion. The cast of PAYCHECK also features Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore and Joe Morton.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made PAYCHECK available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Not surprisingly, PAYCHECK is a glossy big budget action movie that looks absolutely terrific on DVD. The image appears very sharp and highly defined. Colors are rich, fully saturated, and produce very appealing flesh tones. All of the hues are completely stable, and are rendered without noise or smearing. Blacks appear silky, whites are crisp and the picture produces excellent shadow detail. Some of the more stylized photography puts a slightly harsh edge on the contrast, but otherwise it is just fine. The film elements appear nearly pristine and there is little appreciable grain during the presentation. Digital compression artifacts always remain out of sight.
As expected from any new action movie, PAYCHECK features a rock ‘em sock ‘em Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Sure, the early sections of the film are all exposition and tons of dialogue, but once the action kicks in, so does the soundtrack. PAYCHECK is aggressively mixed with fully active front and rear soundstages that place the viewer right in the middle of the action. Awash with effects, music and dialogue, the soundfield is always cohesive and immerse. Fidelity is absolutely terrific for both the rich sounding musical score and the fully convincing sound effects. Dialogue is wholly understandable and never buried under the music or effects. The bass channel is not only punchy; it really packs a wallop. A French 5.1 channel and English Dolby Surround tracks are also provided, as are English subtitles.
Paycheck: Designing The Future is a standard making of program that runs eighteen minutes, which features interviews and a look behind-the-scenes. Tempting Fate: The Stunts Of Paycheck runs sixteen minutes and provides one with a look at how the film’s impressive stunt work was executed. Six deleted/extended scenes are also included, as is an alternate ending. Most of the footage would appear to have been removed to snap up the film’s pacing, as for the alternate ending, let’s just say what we have in the theatrical version of the film works far better. Bonus trailers for SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, TIMELINE, THE PERFECT SCORE and AGAINST THE ROPES close out the supplements.
While PAYCHECK certainly entertains while spinning in your DVD player, it isn’t the most memorable film from director John Woo. As for the DVD, it looks and sounds fantastic, so if you are planning on giving PAYCHECK a spin, this widescreen disc is the best way to do it.
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