“Paycheck” is an interesting sci-fi thriller whose clever story is the driving force of the film. The main character, a reverse engineer, steals the inventions of competing companies and then undergoes a “memory wipe” in order to avoid implicating himself or his employers. This creates a fresh new take on the amnesia or short-term memory loss plot device. Things really get interesting when the FBI is trying to track him down and he is able to evade capture through a series of everyday objects contained in a mysterious envelope. I would go on about how clever the script is but I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. Director John Woo maximizes the potential for action sequences and intensity within this story. The issue is that the script and direction are undermined by the acting. Ben Affleck is one of my least-favorite actors. With the exception of “Gone Girl,” I have never found his performances to be believable. Something about the delivery of his lines always seems fake and this is a prime example. When you pair him with Uma Thurman, another star that I don’t care for (with the exception of “Kill Bill”), this was a recipe for disaster based on my personal taste. Conversely, Paul Giamatti is one of my favorite character actors and Aaron Eckhart is always entertaining. They just were not in the film enough to draw attention away from the awkward chemistry between Affleck and Thurman. Even though the acting leaves something to be desired, I will probably watch this film several more times in my lifetime. “Paycheck” isn’t as good as a lot of other sci-fi thrillers but it delivers the satisfaction of seeing a series of unrelated puzzle pieces and slowly revealing how they fit together. And you don’t even realize that there is one piece missing until the credits begin to roll!
[Pictured: "Paycheck" has plenty of action and intrigue, but this picture captures the awkwardness of the lead actors]