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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Paycheck (review)

Starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman. And Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman’s stunt doubles, who get at least as much screen time as the ostensible stars. Shootouts, showers of breaking glass, car-motorcycle-helicopter chases, and games of chicken with subway trains: director John Woo isn’t gonna risk their pretty faces, so all the big action set pieces, in which the “stars” faces are hidden by hats, helmets, and hunched shoulders, are thoroughly interchangeable with those in a hundred other flicks. The science-fictional trope, involving messed-up memories and computer-aided prognostication, is intriguingly dangled before us: The nondisclosure clause in the contract Affleck’s (Gigli) engineer signs requires his memory to be erased at the completion of the top-secret job. He wakes up with no memory of what he’s done, no memory of the woman (Thurman: Kill Bill: Volume 1) he loved during the three-year contract, and no way to explain why his former boss wants him dead. Unlike the other films based upon stories by Philip K. Dick — Minority Report, Blade Runner — that play with concepts of destiny and self-identity, Paycheck fails to follow through, only teasing us with a taste of the mind-bending film it might have been.


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MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense action violence and brief language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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