Paycheck (2003)

(In theaters, December 2003) Very depressing as it leaves little doubt in John Woo’s declining skills since Face/Off. The director has been quoted as being bored with action films, and the boredom is all there on the screen, in a directing job that is so unremarkable that it doesn’t even feel like Woo. The weak script doesn’t help, but when even the action scenes are downright pedestrian, it doesn’t leave much to watch. Oh, Ben Affleck is adequate in the type of young-professional role he does best, but Uma Thurman simply shows up in a bad haircut and goes through the motions like the rest of the cast. (Only Colm Feore is great as the heavy.) The screenplay is packed with annoying clichés and doubtful contrivances that stand out even in a story predicated on the ability to preview the future. Ironically enough, viewers will also feel uncomfortably prescient in knowing what is about to happen. (Among other weak spots, the film doesn’t “flash-forward” three years later as the protagonist enters the process, delivering a useless scene in between) Oh, there are a few nice touches (the bookstore fight visibly takes place in the Science-Fiction section, Einstein can “see” the future, etc.) but the whole thing just feels lazy, what with armed guards standing guard in front of a lab and protagonists escaping fireballs with a predictable ease. Blah. To be fair, Paycheck probably represents a decent time-waster, but it’s hard to accept such ordinary fare from John Woo.

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