Paranoia king Philip K Dick has fared better than most when it comes to screen adaptations of his work - - Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report all pushed the right futuristic buttons. And it hasn't been a bad run for trigger-happy action aficionado John Woo, either. Okay, so only Face/Off has come close to matching the ballistic brilliance of his Hong Kong work like Hard-Boiled and The Killer, but his Holly-shoot-'em-ups have made more than enough money to put him near the top of the action tree.
Put the two together and what do you get? Maybe not what you expect: Paycheck is a movie that downplays futuristic pretensions, choosing to stress old-fashioned B-movie ingenuity instead. This is not, then, a movie that wants to ponder too seriously - - or even satirically - - the consequences of knowing your future or deliberately un-remembering your past. Sure, there's an antsy vibe early on as we see Affleck's in-demand engineer talk casually about tampering with his mind in exchange for a life of high paycheques and corporate espionage. But it soon gets tossed out a high-rise window when a bewildered, hunted-down Affleck is forced to piece together his missing life from everyday items such as a matchbook, a diamond ring and a bus ticket.
Of course, Dick purists will scoff at the light tone and heavy action - - but first they should learn to appreciate lean, mean, no-bloody-nonsense filmmaking when they see it. Just take a look at the M:I-2-rivalling motorcycle chase, proof that you don't need to build your own multimillion-dollar highway to shoot a rubber-burning thrill ride.
Performance-wise, however, Paycheck is something of a mixed bag. Thankfully, the square-jawed Affleck is just about believable as a smart guy, the plot's forward motion sweeping him along too quickly to bear real inspection, but it's nonetheless hard to watch a Kill Bill-lean Uma Thurman relegated to playing the dutiful girlfriend. Aaron Eckhart, meanwhile, is simply content to mine his slimy side, not that it really affects the movie one way or the other.
Our advice? Just sit back and go with the rapid flow. This is action cinema at its most hoary and traditional: hero in a jam, hero on the run, bad guys closing in. Let's face it, sometimes it's all you need.
Your future is pretty fun if this robust thriller with sci-fi lacings is a part of it. Just don't expect a searching probe into technology-gone-bad.
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