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"Paycheck" ... it has speed and the direction is stylish.

THE FILM is directed by no less a person than John Woo. And there are enough moments of high quality production work and dazzling sequences for any action/science fiction/ thriller aficionado to be motivated to take a look. But then it breaks no new grounds and neither does it remain in your memory once it is over. And then it has Ben Affleck in the lead!

Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a computer genius who can duplicate the most complicated technology — and this comes in handy when competitors want stuff to be copied through a process called reverse engineering. Not only is he able to duplicate things, but can also improve on it.

He is a pretty amenable guy — even to the extent of allowing those who pay him to remove all traces of memory of a job done from his brain so that he can never reveal secrets.

Then comes a job from an old friend James Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who is most certainly not a friend. He offers Michael a pay packet for a job so huge that he need not work again in his life. But for that he must forgo three years of his life and then wake up and live like a king. Michael jumps at it.

Three years have gone and Michael can remember nothing. But to his horror, people are trying to kill him. The FBI wants to talk to him about things he has done and the only two people who mean well are Rachel (Uma Thurman) and Shorty (Paul Giamatti). They will also be the ones to help him find out why James wants him dead.

Michael is also at a loss to find that he has given up his paycheck and that he has posted himself a cover full of everyday things. Was he cheated out of his money or did he give it up voluntarily? And why did he put such things together so carefully? Things like a key, a clip, and an identity card?

As we go along we are told that what Michael has worked on is a machine that can predict the future! Which is why James wants it working at any cost. And what appeals to his black heart is that the machine has shown Michael dying.

Of course the direction is stylish. It has to be, considering it is John Woo.

It is full of visual treats that have become so passé — the fights, the chases, the shootouts, and bullets sailing along in slow speed. The screenplay by Dean Georgaris is rather vague about how this machine predicts the future.

Entertaining, but not special. The aspect of the man on the run is interesting. And there is enough speed in the film for one to sit through without feeling bored.

The director wastes no time in explanations of the obvious. He moves to the end with the proverbial dove signifying that all is not lost. And just as in a Bond movie, you know that the hero will triumph. No matter what the machine has predicted.

Ben Affleck is not expressive but it does not matter because all he has to do is move. And there is plenty of action to forget emotions. Uma Thurman has a very small role and is mostly a good foil to a glum Affleck.


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