John Woo is one of my favorite directors. However, since coming to America, Woo has essentially become de-fanged. His Hollywood efforts may feature some of his iconography and style, but they don't cover the same themes as his Hong Kong crime dramas. Tellingly, Woo's most critically and artistically successful American movie, "Face/Off", is the one that most-resembles "A Better Tomorrow", "The Killer", and "Hard-Boiled".
The funny thing about Woo is that he admits that he doesn't like science fiction. Yet, he keeps making movies influenced by sci-fi, such as "Face/Off", "Mission: Impossible 2", and "Paycheck". The sci-fi elements in "Face/Off" were brushed aside by Woo's intense examination of duality. Likewise, "Mission: Impossible 2" didn't need its sci-fi elements in order to work. Yet, the premise of "Paycheck" lies outside of Woo's caring, and you can sense that the director was marking time until his next project. (What really worries me is that, in the interviews on the "Paycheck" DVD, Woo's eyes indicate that he's either really exhausted or really sick.)
In "Paycheck", Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) builds a machine that allows a person to see the future. However, once a person sees the future, he can change it. Sound familiar? Yep, the same premise was used for "Minority Report" (Steven Spielberg, 2002). In fact, "Paycheck" plays like a remake of "Minority Report", right down to the 3-D graphical interface that Michael uses at the beginning of the movie (shades of the 3-D computers in "Minority Report") and the machine that looks into the future (shades of the video monitors in the ceiling inside the Pre-Cogs' "temple" in "Minority Report"). Michael even escapes from his pursuers the way that Agatha helps John Anderton escape the Pre-Crime cops--since he saw the future, Michael knows how to avoid being caught.
Both "Paycheck" and "Minority Report" were based on short stories by Philip K. Dick. Perhaps Dick repeated himself simply because he was preoccupied by themes like pre-destination and fate. However, just because Dick repeated himself doesn't mean that moviemakers have to retread the same territory over and over again. What's more, "Paycheck" is a lackluster effort, so it's not even a decent experience. Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman have little chemistry, and Aaron Eckhart has yet to convince me that he is a good actor. Since there is so little ingenuity and so much ordinariness, "Paycheck" never achieves any momentum or visceral excitement despite the presence of Woo's constantly moving camera and a motorcycle chase that goes against the flow of traffic.
The movie looks "new" due to its strong, vibrant colors, but the print that was used for the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen video transfer seems to have been handled carelessly. The first hour is filled with scratches, nicks, dust, etc. The same problems occur sporadically during the second hour. Sharpness is a plus, though the sharpness also draws one's attention to the print's defects.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track is pretty active and features plenty of low-frequency effects, though "Paycheck" is more of a drama than an action movie. Therefore, the sound mix is not as aggressive as the one for, say, "Face/Off". The sound design isn't particularly artful, either--everything is done professionally and competently, but everything also feels uninspired and a tad derivative.
Those of you without digital-sound set-ups should watch the movie with the DD 2.0 surround English audio track. There's also a DD 5.1 French. Optional English subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.
"Paycheck" and "The Italian Job" were probably Paramount's highest-grossing movies in 2003, but the "Special Collector's Edition" of "Paycheck" reveals how bad of a year the studio had. The extras have a run-of-the-mill feel, so you know that no one was really enthusiastic about creating the DVD. (Heck, given how bad the print's condition was, you could've mistakenly thought that Paramount had farmed out "Paycheck" to another company for its DVD release.)
There's an audio commentary by John Woo. Woo is fairly engaging, but I felt bad listening to him talk about how great the shoot was because I know that he doesn't give a crap about science fiction. There's also an audio commentary by screenwriter Dean Georgaris. As I didn't feel like sitting through the movie for a third time, I gave Mr. Georgaris the brush-off.
"'Paycheck': Designing the Future" is a featurette that focuses on the production's look. "Tempting Fate: The Stunts of 'Paycheck'" is a featurette that shows how some of the action set-pieces were accomplished. Finally, there are seven extended/deleted scenes.
Yet again, Paramount has neglected to include the movie's theatrical teasers/trailers, though there are a couple of trailers for other movies.
Since Paramount no longer provides inserts with its DVDs, the keepcase holds nothing beyond the disc itself.
Considering that "Paycheck" is a by-the-numbers, juvenile remake of "Minority Report", there is little reason to see it. It's not an outright bad movie, but it's been done well elsewhere. Therefore, only die-hard fans of John Woo will enjoy "Paycheck" on any level. Admittedly, I am one of those Woo fans, but since I think that "Minority Report" is one of the best movies made during the past twenty years, guess how many times I'll re-watch "Paycheck".