Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Ben Affleck as MICHAEL JENNINGS
    Aaron Eckhart as RETHRICK
    Uma Thurman as RACHEL
    Paul Giamatti as SHORTY
    Colm Feore as WOLFE
    Joe Morton as AGENT DODGE
    Michael C. Hall as AGENT CLINE

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: DreamWorks

    Directed by: John Woo

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Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a technological genius who sells his time to the highest bidder... literally. He is hired by companies to reverse engineer inventions and then come out with an improved product. At the end of his jobs, his memory is wiped, leaving no trace of his work for him to claim. However, his latest job, which took of years instead of months, leaves him a hunted man by the Feds, and his only clues to his past is an envelope with twelve seemingly random items in it. Michael must use these items to discover what happened in his life over the past few years and to save the world from destruction.

“Paycheck” is a guilty pleasure for me. While I love contemplative science fiction, I enjoy a good action piece set against a futuristic backdrop. Sure this movie’s backdrop is the no-longer-futuristic 2007, but it is still fun to watch.

Still, this movie is just as much of a mystery as it is an action film. Not a mystery that we might find on “Masterpiece Theater” or in an Agatha Christie book, but a mystery for the characters in the film to figure out. It’s not necessarily high brow sci-fi, but it is very accessible to the mainstream eye.

When director John Woo first leapt into American cinema with “Hard Target” decades ago, I wanted to see what he could give us. Film after film, however, left me unimpressed. It took him several tries to start making decent movies, which began with “Mission: Impossible 2.” And “Paycheck” fell into his better slate of flicks.

“Paycheck” has a slick look with some very cool action. Ben Affleck shows that he can deliver as a leading man, if not a little cheesy at times. He’s also surrounded by some very good actors – including Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti and Colm Feore – who all do their part to raise the average script to a decent film.

I’ve never been a Dickhead, which is the name the fans of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction have given themselves. I do realize, however, that most of his films have left the fans cold, with the possible exception of “Blade Runner,” which was an early adaptation. I really should start reading his work considering how passionate his fan base is. But I’m sure if I did, movies like “Paycheck” would no longer be as fun as they are now.

There’s a lot of fluff in this movie, starting with the presentation of Ben Affleck. While the guy has some great acting chops, he does attack this movie with a certain amount of cheesiness. I forgive that considering what a good time I have watching the film, but not all science fiction fans do.

If you think too much about the movie and its plot points, things start to unravel fast. And even the casual viewer can concede that a good portion of the film is nothing more than an excuse to fling the camera around, perform cool stunts and blow stuff up. I’m okay with that, but die-hard Dickheads will cringe at this movie.

The new Blu-ray release of “Paycheck” offers the same special features as the original DVD release. The big difference is the fact that this visually compelling movie is shown in high definition with an ear-splitting soundtrack, which should go a long way to justifying the price tag for a Blu-ray player, an HD television and rocking sound system.

The bonus material includes two commentary tracks. One features director John Woo, and the other features screenwriter Dean Georgaris. There are also a healthy dose of deleted and extended scenes, including one that is sort-of integral to the plot but not so much that it couldn’t be dropped.

Additional bonus material include two featurettes. “Paycheck: Designing the Future” explains how the film was crafted to give a crisp look to a not-so-different future (which now exists two years in our past), and “Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck” spotlight the stunts of the film, which is pretty amazing considering Woo’s determination to use practical effects for much of the action.

Ben Affleck fans and people who like popcorn sci-fi action flicks.

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