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Introduction
If you were to have asked me a couple of years ago who my favourite director was then John Woo would certainly have been at the top of the list. Renowned for action classics such as The Killer, Hard Boiled, Face/Off and Mission Impossible 2, the director was heavily sought after during his heyday. However, recent times have seen his career falter somewhat and his latest film, Paycheck, didn’t particularly capture the imagination of cinemagoers upon its release earlier this year. Dreamworks have hardly let the dust settle before releasing the DVD, but is this strategy going to stir up any more interest in this title?

Paycheck
Movie
Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) has a mind-numbing job in more ways then one; he is a Reverse Engineer who is paid by companies to strip their rivals’ latest gadgets and rebuild them in a better way. As part of the process he is secluded in a lab and is given limited involvement with people around him. Once he has concluded his work he then hands over the newly improved gadgets to the company, who pay him a handsome sum. To protect themselves from prosecution, his employers insist that Jennings has his memory wiped after each job is completed. There are obviously high risks involved with his job, but Jennings considers the salary he gets to compensate for this.

His latest job is a proposition to him from old friend Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who offers his buddy a paycheck of over $90 million for a top secret job. Even though he will lose three years of his life as part of the job, Jennings feels he cannot turn down such a big paycheck. Unfortunately things don’t quite go to plan and after Jennings completes the job he finds out that he has agreed to forfeit all his payment. In its place he is given an envelope which contains various random objects, none of which he can remember owning. It soon becomes clear to him that he had left the objects as clues to a puzzle, but he cannot remember why! Helping him unravel the puzzle is Rachel (Uma Thurman), a work colleague from his previous job and someone he used to have a relationship with. The pair set about trying to disentangle the mystery, but they come across opposition in the form of Jennings’ former employers and the FBI who are keen on finding out about his previous work.

Paycheck
As a John Woo film, I was expecting Paycheck to have several jaw dropping action set pieces, but apart from a bike chase about half way through the movie, there is very little else to get excited about. This wouldn’t normally be too much of a problem if the movie was intriguing enough, but many aspects of it are blatant and tedious. This is a shame really as the movie opens in promising fashion. The first quarter of an hour is absorbing and sets high standards which are unfortunately not kept up during the rest of the movie. The film peters out into a cat and mouse chase with very few surprises along the way.

The cast list makes for impressive reading, but to be honest they don’t put in performances to warrant their large salaries. Both Affleck and Thurman seem static and as if they are cruising through the movie without really getting involved. I am not the greatest fan of Ben Affleck but with the exception of Gigli this is one of his worst performances I have seen from him. Aaron Eckhart is miscast as the bad guy as well, and this just reiterates how poor the script is. For all involved Paycheck is probably a movie most will want to scrap from their CV. At best Paycheck is an average thriller, and I would only recommend it as a rental.

Video
Dreamworks have provided an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with this release. For the most part it is a high quality transfer, but there are certain elements of it which I was not 100% happy about. In certain scenes in the movie the image didn’t appear as sharp and defined as I would have expected from a recent Hollywood blockbuster. During these periods the image appeared too soft and the colour palette also had a restrained look. Fortunately we are only taking about a few moments in the course of the presentation, and for the rest of the movie it is of a high enough standard. Black levels are solid throughout and there appeared no signs of damage to the image. Compression artefacts are nowhere to been seen which is not surprising considering the lack of soundtracks and sizeable extras on this disc, but more about that later! There were also no obvious signs of edge enhancements and grain levels are hardly noticeable either. Overall this is a reasonable transfer but it is let down by a few niggling moments which prevent it from being perfect.

Audio
There is only one soundtrack provided with this release. Dreamworks have taken the decision not to provide support for foreign languages, so what we are treated to is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The good news is that the track is pretty impressive! The full sound stage is put to good use and the rears are brought into play whenever possible. Particularly impressive is the bike scene which has vehicles whizzing past from all angles. This is the closest you will get to this situation without being on the bike itself! The musical score also makes its way to the rears during some of the duller moments, so at least you have the best possible audio presentation. The dialogue is also crystal clear and doesn’t get muffled in the ensuing melee of certain scenes. Apart from the lack of multi language support, this aspect of the disc cannot be faulted.

Paycheck
The menus for this release are standard static menus and nothing outstanding. That just leaves me to mention the subtitles and once again all we get are subtitles in English.

Extras
I was hoping for some meaty extras with this release so that John Woo could explain what he was trying to achieve with this movie, but sadly the extras included here only seem to scratch the surface. The first extra I came across is entitled Paycheck: Designing The Future. This featurette starts with a brief character synopsis by Ben Affleck. He has a lot of input into this featurette and is also joined by fellow actress Uma Thurman as well as other cast members. John Woo gets involved too, and talks about several aspects of the movie including why he chose particular cast members. This featurette also shows lots of design aspects relating to the movie, including storyboards and special effects shots. There is a lot of behind the scenes footage so fans can see what it was like to be on set. This featurette runs for eighteen minutes.  Next up is another featurette called Tempting Fate: The Stunts Of Paycheck. As the title suggests, this featurette deals with the stunts included in the movie. Fans of John Woo will probably go straight to this extra as this is what the director is known for. Unfortunately as I mentioned in the movie section there is very little action in this movie, so this extra deals mostly with the motorbike scene. This featurette lasts for around sixteen minutes and should keep action fans happy.

If you are a fan of deleted scenes you are in for a treat with the next section which is called Deleted Scenes/Extended Scenes. There are six scenes included in this section, and they vary considerably in length and in their positions within the film. The selections on offer are actually pretty good and this is definitely one of the best sets of deleted scenes that I have come across recently. Also falling into the same category is the section called Alternate Ending. I found the original ending to be pretty lacking, but in some ways I am glad that they included it because this alternate ending is even worse! I won’t go into any detail here, but it is a little too corny for my liking and John Woo definitely made the right decision not to include it.

The final couple of extras are both Commentaries. There is one by director John Woo and the other one is with screenwriter Dean Georgaris. I have to admit to not being a huge fan of commentaries. I realise that they can be an effective way of informing fans about the movies they love, but personally I don’t tend to listen to them for most of the titles I own. The two commentaries included with this release are very informative and fans should find enough interesting facts to make listening to them worthwhile.

Paycheck
Overall
All in all, Paycheck is a thriller which doesn’t really thrill. It has its good moments but for the most part this movie fails to deliver. This year has seen a distinct lack of action movies, and Paycheck is another case of a promising premise which has been poorly brought to the big screen. Normally if you have a few A-list actors involved with a movie then they can be relied upon to raise it to a bearable level, but both Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman give some of their worst acting performances I have seen. So, can the DVD provide consolidation? Well the answer is yes and no! There are some promising aspects such as the transfer and soundtrack, but even these have their problems. The extras include some good featurettes, but there is a distinct lack of what I call stocking filler extras (e.g. trailers and cast & crew info). For me Paycheck was a letdown and I would at best recommend it as title to rent.


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