The film “Paycheck,” starring Ben Affleck, did not receive a lot of publicity nor good reviews, which leads one to wonder why Ben Affleck agreed to star in this bomb in the first place. Because it is directed by Jon Woo, you can expect to find car chases and martial arts sequences to be significant episodes in the film.
“Paycheck” is definitely in the sci-fi genre classification, which means that it could not have happened in real life. It is based on a story published by Philip K. Dick in 2003.
Ben Affleck - Wikimedia By Gage Skidmore
Ben Affleck plays a successful engineer named Michael Jennings who works for devious companies who have the capacity to wipe out his memory of his tenure with them once the job has been completed. He is usually hired for two or three months at a significant salary. An old college friend, James Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who heads up a company called Allcom, asked Michael to take on a job that would last for two or three years and would earn him eight figures.
Michael Accepts the Job Offer
Michael’s friend Shorty (Paul Giametti) advised Michael not to take the long-term job. Shorty was named well. It was a surprise to note how short Paul Giametti really is. After giving it some serious thought, Michael accepted Rethrick’s offer, and was required to turn over about twenty of his personal belongings (watches, sunglasses, keys, pen, etc.) which would be returned to him after the job was completed. Of course, his memory of those last years would be erased.
Michael Meets Rachel
Michael is slated to work with Dr. William Dekker on his project. At an office party, Michael met biologist Dr. Rachel Porter (Uma Thurman) who works for Rethrick, and the two were attracted to each other. She learned that his favorite team is the Red Sox. Rachel has a pet parrot who plays a highly significant role at the end of the film.
Uma Thurman - Wikimedia
The Three-Year Job is Completed
Fast forward three years. Rethrick tells Michael “You’re done. It’s been three years. Your money has been transferred.” The FBI then contacted Michael to interrogate him on charges related to the death of his colleague Dr. William Dekker, who died when he fell out of his bedroom window. Dr. Dekker had been working on a laser and Michael’s signature was on the patent applications in several places. The FBI was suspicious and inferred that Michael may have committed an act of treason and possibly murder. While in their custody, Michael was able to escape and to evade them, which provided the action John Woo is noted for.
Michael Escapes His Captors
Michael secreted himself in a luxurious hotel room. (The viewer may wonder where he secured the funds for this.) An envelope with his personal effects had been returned to him. However, the envelope did not contain his items but 19 items which he did not recognize. He tried to call the New Liberty Saving Bank to receive his paycheck. The bank did not exist.
A Meeting with Rachel
Michael phoned Rethrick and was told that he had forfeited his rights to the $92 million he had coming before his memory had been wiped clean. After warning his friend Shorty about his plight, one of the 19 items indicated that he had a meeting set up with Rachel Porter at the Café Michel. Rethrick had been watching Michael’s movements and intercepted the message Michael sent to Rachel. Rethrick sent a woman who closely resembled Rachel and told her to retrieve Michael’s envelope.
When the imposter arrived, she said “Michael, I thought I was never going to see you again.” Michael was suspicious of this intruder. He asked her what his favorite ball team was. She couldn’t answer him. Rachel Porter showed up and said “The Red Sox.” Her double cleared out fast without the envelope that she was supposed to retrieve.
Rachel tried to convince Michael of the close relationship they had when they worked together at Allcom. Michael’s memory was completely erased. He did not remember.
Aaron Eckhart - Wikimedia By Gage Skidmore
A Motorcycle Chase
Rachel and Michael were able to confiscate a motorcycle, and the viewer is a witness to a motorcycle chase, the likes of which has never been seen on the silver screen. They eluded their followers for the next fifteen minutes of screen time. A helicopter was able to contact him to say “Mike, we can help you. Let us bring you in.”
Michael Must Return to the Lab
The machine Dr. Dekker had invented was able to predict the future. Newspaper headlines told of financial panic, political strife, and America launching a nuclear strike. Michael said to Rachel “I have to go back. I have to destroy that machine.”
The objects that Michael was given in the envelope proved to be accessories that would help him at this time after his memory had been wiped clean. One was a bus pass that he was able to use at one point to escape his followers in a bus station. His Allcom security pass was another. He was able to rig the machine so that it would malfunction for Rethrick, preventing him from anticipating Michael’s future actions.
Intruders at the Lab
Michael and Rachel returned to the lab, only to find that, not only had Rethrick gotten there first, but the FBI were on the scene also. Gunfire and misfire occurred for another ten minutes. An FBI agent’s bullet killed Rethrick. Michael was able to destroy the machine before he and Rachel escaped just as the lab was consumed by fire.
Dollar Bill - Wikimedia
One Positive Future Prediction
Before destroying the machine, Michael was able to foresee one circumstance which would help him considerably. He had the winning ticket of a $90 million lottery and it was stashed under the newspaper at the bottom of Rachel’s parrot’s birdcage. Michael, Rachel, and Shorty returned to a more peaceful existence by purchasing a greenhouse nursery, escaping from the insanity that had marked their lives over the past three years.
Of course, this story is unbelievable. Unless you are totally addicted to Sci-Fi thrillers, you would be advised to skip this film. I am certain that Ben Affleck is embarrassed that he signed up for this one.