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While PAYCHECK ($30) is certainly an entertaining enough action thriller, the film isn’t representative of director John Woo’s finest work. Sure, Woo carries off the action sequences with aplomb, but weaknesses in the screenplay prevents the film from rising above standard movie fare much of the time. Personally, I found PAYCHECK to be quite enjoyable while I was watching it, but like so much fast food, this movie is little more than a whole lot of empty calories that one is unlikely to remember after the meal. In the film’s favor, PAYCHECK takes its most intriguing concepts from a Philip K. Dick story, and integrates Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite theme of the "innocent man falsely accused" to tell a slightly futuristic and action based tale.

PAYCHECK stars Ben Affleck as Michael Jennings, a somewhat unscrupulous engineer who earns a rather lucrative living by reverse engineering hi-tech products for even more unscrupulous corporations. Of course, these unscrupulous corporations want no evidence to implicate them in the theft of another company’s intellectual property, so at the end of Michael’s tenure, his employers erase his memory before giving him a hefty paycheck. Although his assignments typically entail giving up two month segments of his life and memories, Michael is offered the paycheck of a lifetime, if he accepts the three year reverse engineering assignment being offered by Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), an old friend and head of the Allcom corporation.

As one might expect, Michael accepts the job and three years quickly pass. However, after his memories are erased, Michael learns that he has signed away his paycheck in lieu of a packet containing some inconsequential personal items. Making matters even worse, Michael discovers that the authorities are pursuing him, in addition to the assassins that are gunning for him. Trying to piece together what happened to him in the last three years, Michael finds out that he has been living with a beautiful biologist named Rachel (Uma Thurman), not to mention that his small collection of seemingly inconsequential personal items have managed to save his life on more than one occasion. The cast of PAYCHECK also features Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore and Joe Morton.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made PAYCHECK available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Upping the ante on their terrific DVD, PAYCHECK provides a killer 1080p presentation on Blu-ray. The image is almost always super sharp, highly dimensional and beautifully defined with excellent texturing. Colors are rich, vibrant and feature fully saturated hues, as well as attractive flesh tones. Blacks are right on the money, as are the whites. Contrast and shadow detail register as first rate. The film elements from which PAYCHECK has been mastered are generally very clean. Grain is present, but not to any excessive level.

PAYCHECK is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. With some improvements in fidelity, this lossless soundtrack pretty much mirrors my impressions about the DVD release. PAYCHECK features a rock ‘em sock ‘em sound design that kicks into gear early exposition and dialogue heavy sequences are out of the way. PAYCHECK is aggressively mixed with fully active front and rear soundstages that place the viewer right in the middle of the action. Awash with effects, music and dialogue, the sound field is always cohesive and immerse. The music and sound effects get a boost from the lossless encode, but then again, they were no slouches on DVD either. The bass channel really packs a wallop and should rock one’s home theater. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

The interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with director John Woo and the second features screenwriter Dean Georgaris. Both tracks have merit, but fans will get more from Woo’s talk, even if his English is a bit difficult to understand at times. Paycheck: Designing The Future is a standard making of program that runs eighteen minutes, which features interviews and a look behind-the-scenes. Tempting Fate: The Stunts Of Paycheck runs sixteen minutes and provides one with a look at how the film’s impressive stunt work was executed. Six Deleted/Extended Scenes are also included, as is an alternate ending. Most of the footage would appear to have been removed to snap up the film’s pacing, as for the Alternate Ending, let’s just say what we have in the theatrical version of the film works far better.

PAYCHECK is a fun action movie offer, but isn’t the most memorable film from director John Woo. The Blu-ray presentation offers a big improvement in terms of picture quality over SD and a more modest boost on the terrific audio found on the DVD. If you are interested in this title on Blu-ray, it is worth the upgrade.



Paycheck [Blu-ray] (2003)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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