David M. Brown's Blog

August 19, 2010

The payoff of “Paycheck”

Filed under: Movies — davidmbrowndotcom @ 7:49 am
Tags: , ,

I was watching some of “Paycheck” at the Netflix web site, where it is available for instant viewing, and gave up when the memory-wiped Affleck character figures out why his pre-wiped self mailed to himself the envelope of seemingly pointless items. He did so because he had invented a future-viewing machine and wanted to save himself from being murdered in the future by his greedy theoretical-physics-stealing bosses; successive scans of his own future using the future-viewing machine had unveiled how various persons would be trying to kill him and how one or another pointless item in the envelope would enable him to foil each successive attempt (you had to be there). I’m sorry if these details constitute spoilers but no I’m not.

Similarwise, our hero prior to the memory wipe forfeited his hundred-million-dollar payoff the better to motivate his memory-wiped self to attend to the pointless items, these being the only sort of murder-deflecting thingies that the pre-mem-wiped version of self could smuggle out of the Evil Corporation without provoking suspicion.

So it’s been a mildly interesting puzzle being tackled in a glossy futuristic setting up to this point in the movie. But then it lapses into mostly just chase scenes and chase-scene music, which will ultimately lead to struggles to gain control of the future-viewing machine and so forth. I don’t remember exactly how it all gets resolved, but I do remember that it isn’t worth re-watching the second half to refurbish my recollection.

Not that the first half of the flick is so great, but at least it’s watchable. You learn about how, in the future, the reverse-engineering engineers must agree to let their memories be wiped by the Evil Corporations, and so forth. And you observe the baffled Affleck character slowly figure out how he has already figured out how to reverse-engineer his fate. Okay. But then it all curdles. If you can’t watch a movie a second time in its entirety several years after you saw it the first time, then it’s not a good movie. That’s by definition.

One should be spared a full original viewing as well. Can’t movie makers when they have produced a movie like this install a kind of public service advisory in the middle of the movie, “FYI, It’s All Downhill From Here, Just Chase Scenes and Chase-Scene Music, So Forth, with the Ultimate Revelations Not Really Worth the Wait; You’ve Basically Gotten the Gist, Leave Now If You Have Better Things to Do”? Because halfway through the movie, you can see the future of the movie even without benefit of a 500-billion-dollar future-viewing machine, even if you don’t remember it.

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6 Comments »

  1. Most films adapted from Philip K. Dick short stories devolve into endless chase scenes since in part because they run out of material (Minority Report, Impostor, etc…)

    Comment by Joachim Boaz — August 19, 2010 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  2. Good point. I suppose the exception is “Blade Runner,” a film I don’t like (at least in its theater version) as much as some others.

    I didn’t realize or perhaps remember until reading Joachim Boaz’s comment that “Paycheck” is based on a Philip K. Dick story, although I’m sure the credit must have flashed on the screen. It seems that many moviemakers can pick up on material of imaginative interest—they know its value when they see it—but can’t fully and appropriately develop it.

    Why should Infinite Boring Chase Scenes so often be the gap-filler? Do the movie makers sense that if they try to flesh things out with their own imagining instead of with a cookie-cutter cinematic standby, they’d screw up their project even more? But if you know enough to know that a Philip K. Dick story is worth adapting, you know enough to know that your movie is worth getting a scriptwriter who can adapt it. Even a few modest changes would have salvaged the second half of “Paycheck.”

    Comment by davidmbrowndotcom — August 19, 2010 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  3. well, again, Paycheck was directed by John Woo — a random chase scene comes naturally to him — hahaha

    I think the BEST adaptation of a PKD story/novel has to be A Scanner Darkly in terms of loyalty to the plot and the “feel” of PKD. I’m not sure even Bladerunner has the “feel” of a PKD future…

    I did really enjoy Minority report, but again, it has the same silly chase scenes — the jet packs!

    Comment by Joachim Boaz — August 20, 2010 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  4. Yes, both are better movies. Too bad Dick didn’t live to see all this cinema based on his stories. I guess he saw and liked the script and also some of the special effects for “Blade Runner” before he died.

    Comment by davidmbrowndotcom — August 20, 2010 @ 1:18 am | Reply

  5. Too bad he never had the financial security that the films would have entailed — he was perpetually strapped of money (well, partially because of his drug addictions) — as a result he had to crank out so many books a year… The editing of the first editions is quite atrocious…. Regardless, I like virtually all of them 🙂

    Comment by Joachim Boaz — August 20, 2010 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  6. His family is now selling the movie rights for each and everyone of his short stories for millions of dollars… kind of shows you how far ahead of his time he was…

    Comment by Joachim Boaz — August 20, 2010 @ 11:22 am | Reply


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