June 23, 2004

Paycheck by John Woo, 2003

word of advice: you do need a ton of suspension of disbelief to be able to get through this movie. i'm not saying it's impossible. it is. but you need to remind yourself to suspend your disbelief. it comes in handy.

in the end, it's one mess of a movie. 'preposterous' is the word that kept popping into my head throughout the whole film. see, it made me realize just how amazingly good Paul Verhoeven was when he made Total Recall. the story's are the same; someone gets his memory wiped clean and finds himself in big trouble he has to understand before he gets killed. but Verhoeven was able to make us care for, of all people, Arnold's plight (although it's been ages since i've seen that film. i'd have to re-watch it to see if it still works now that i'm not a kid anymore). this is something John Woo, but more specifically Ben Affleck, aren't able to. Affleck doesn't seem to have the balls to pull this type of character -the action character- off. he still seems too unsure of himself. it's apparent in a lot of his bigger films. i do like the guy, i'm not an Affleck basher by any means, but i've never really seen him as an actor. he strikes me as something else (a writer? director?). he did give a couple of really good performances (Good Will Hunting, but especially Chasing Amy) earlier in his career, but when it comes time to play macho or the action hero, whoop, he's gone. i will admit, though, that i was surprised at various points during the film to find myself finally forgetting i was watching Ben Affleck. i'll give him that. i just don't buy a) the earnest and corny in love Affleck, and b) the tough and serious Affleck. that's for the main character. now for bit players. Uma Thurman actually doesn't add anything to the film. she doesn't do much and is only useful as the 'love interest'. nah, actually. Affleck's not even fighting for her. he's mostly trying to right the wrongs he did. he's kinda saving the world (thankfully, that phrase is never used in the film). so, what's Uma doing there? well, she kicks some butt, but not as much as in Kill Bill. just enough to keep some sort of background noise. is she his sidekick? nope. not really. Ben solves everything on his own. what is she good for, then? really - nothing. she gives a sub-adequate performance (there's a couple of scene in which she's just too cartoon-y) and that's it. her character, although the only tangible link to Ben's muddled past that he trusts, is irrelevant. she's there so she can give him later on in the film that i now forgot. yeah, it's that relevant, apparently.

now, the main thing i was looking to save this movie was John Woo and the action. the only set piece i do remember is the bike sequence (with big black rubber helmets that make $20 million stars look goofy instead of macho and tough). and it doesn't disappoint. but it's the only scene that impressed me. the rest is the stuff of every other big hollywood action movie.

the idea for the film, based on Philip K Dick's novel, is a really good one. and some of it is really well executed. but the screenplay as so many plot holes it can barely sustain itself. this is where the big part of preposterous comes in and blows you away. (you need to look past these gaping holes if you wanna be able to make it to the end). i don't know if these were in the book or if the book was condensed too much. i have no idea. but i was shocked to see a film done by so many good people with so many obvious unanswered questions or just lousy writing.

it came this close to being a really cool film, but it ended up just being really annoying instead. too bad. now let's move on with our lives.

[ hmm. i guess i did have more to say about this film, after all :) don't rent it. or if you do, make sure you're a Philip K Dick fan so you'll at least enjoy some of it. as for anyone else, just rent Total Recall. but there is one reason to rent the Paycheck disc -- it includes the wonderful preview for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. brilliant, brilliant stuff. as much fun as the title implies. ]

np: underworld, dirty epic/cowgirl

Posted by Sam | 1:58 PM |