Paycheck, Blu-ray (2003/2009)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti
Director: John Woo
Studio: Paramount 14296 [Release date: May 19, 09]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD, French or Spanish DD 5.1, 2.0
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Commentary by John Woo, Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgaris, “Paycheck: Designing the Future,” “Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck,” Extended Deleted Scenes
Length: 118 minutes
Affleck – who I’ve never thought of as a great actor – plays an electronics engineering whiz who specializes in reverse engineering for unethical corporations of ideas developed by their competitors. To protect his client’s interests he has his partner erase his memory of each job. He’s offered a three-year job to work on a secret device for a shockingly large paycheck at the end. A mysterious and sexy biologist-scientist, played by Thurman, also works for the corporate client. At the end of the three years he goes to pick up his check and is told he forfeited it earlier, and is given his envelope of personal items that he gave up three years before. Only they are not his own personal items but appear to be someone else’s. With the biologist – which whom he obviously had a relationship during the three years – he struggles to find out why he relinquished his paycheck, and discovers that the seemingly unconnected items in the envelope are actually clues to what he needs to do and simple tools for his escaping both the villainous clients and the FBI, who are also after him. It turns out the mystery device he worked on for three years had something to do with time travel to the future.
Another reviewer calls Paycheck “entertaining crap at its finest,” and who am I to disagree? Still, I think it’s better than the current theatrical Terminator movie. There’s a lot of pretty nonsensical stuff, and Affleck is his usual wooden self, but John Woo sparks things up with his fights, explosions, and patented gravity-defying motorcycle chases, making for some guilty fun along the way. With no prior back-story to them, both Affleck and Thurman suddenly become kung-fu masters when they are pursued by the baddies; but that’s par for the course with Hong Kong-bred Woo.
The Blu-ray transfer is superb, with great details in the shattering glass, bits of gravel, droplets of water, etc. The colors are bright and skin tones natural. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track brings to bear all the sonic tricks in immersing one in Woo’s explosions and gunshots, without covering up important dialog. The supplements are the same as were included in the 2004 Collector’s Edition DVD, not in HD as some Blu-rays are now offering, and the two commentary tracks aren’t required listening. However, the “Tempting Fate” featurette on the stuntwork for the film is thrilling.
– John Sunier