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Paycheck (film)

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Title: Paycheck (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: John Woo, List of filming locations in the Vancouver area, Philip K. Dick, Benita Ha, Joe Morton
Collection: 2000S Action Films, 2000S Science Fiction Films, 2003 Films, American Films, American Science Fiction Action Films, Davis Entertainment Films, Dreamworks Pictures Films, English-Language Films, Films About Altered Memories, Films Based on Short Fiction, Films Based on Works by Philip K. Dick, Films Directed by John Woo, Films Set in 2007, Films Set in Seattle, Washington, Films Shot in Vancouver, Holography in Films, Paramount Pictures Films, Techno-Thriller Films, Time Loop Films, Time Travel Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Paycheck (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Woo
Produced by
Written by Dean Georgaris
Based on Paycheck 
by Philip K. Dick
Music by John Powell
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by Christopher Rouse
Distributed by
Release dates
  • December 25, 2003 (2003-12-25)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million
Box office $96,269,812

Paycheck is a 2003 sci-fi thriller film based on the short story of the same name by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The film was directed by John Woo and stars Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart. Paul Giamatti, Michael C. Hall, Joe Morton and Colm Feore also appear.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Trademarks 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Awards 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In the near future, Michael Jennings (Affleck) is a reverse engineer; he analyzes his clients' competitors' technology and recreates it, often adding improvements beyond the original specifications. To protect his clients' intellectual property and himself, Jennings, with the aid of his friend Shorty (Giamatti), undertakes a memory wipe to remove knowledge of his engineering.

Jennings is approached by his old college roommate, James Rethrick (Eckhart), the CEO of the successful Seattle technology company Allcom. Rethrick proposes a lengthy three-year reverse engineering job to Jennings, requiring him to live on Allcom's secured campus until its conclusion but rewarding him handsomely with company stock. Jennings agrees and, after arranging for his long-term absence, arrives at Allcom, turns in his personal possessions, and is given a brief tour of the facility where he meets and flirts with botanist Dr. Rachel Porter (Thurman). He is injected with a long-term memory marker for the post-job memory wipe.

Three years later (June 2007), at the conclusion of the memory wipe, Jennings is sitting in Rethrick's office, being thanked for a successful job. On returning home, Jennings finds that, although his Allcom shares would have been worth around $92 million, he had signed them away near the end of his tenure. Furthermore, he finds that his personal possessions have been replaced with an envelope containing a random assortment of everyday items. Soon after, the FBI captures him; and Agent Dodge (Morton) interrogates him on charges related to the death of physicist William Dekker. Jennings is able to escape custody, finding that the items in the envelope can be used at the right time to evade capture. After warning Shorty of his plight, he finds the items pointing him to a café meeting with Porter. Rethrick, who has been watching Jennings' movements, discovers a message to Porter about this meeting and sends a body double to take her place to try to recover the envelope. The real Porter shows up and helps Jennings escape from both the FBI and Rethrick's men.

They take shelter at a local school, examining the remaining items in the envelope while Porter tries to convince Jennings of the relationship they shared during his tenure at Allcom. One of the stamps holds a microdot that, on enlargement, reveals several pictures of newspaper headlines taken from a machine's display showing Allcom becoming financially successful with a device that can depict future events, but the resultant doomsday visions ultimately lead to a series of self-fulfilling prophecies resulting in financial panic, political strife and America launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Jennings realizes he must have built this device based on Dekker's invention and, on realizing the horrors that will come, prepared the envelope, using the forecasts from the machine to allow his future self to return to Allcom and destroy the machine. Furthermore, as Rethrick shortly discovers, Jennings rigged the device to malfunction, preventing Rethrick from anticipating Jennings' actions.

Jennings and Porter return to Allcom and make their way to the machine room undetected, jamming the door behind them. Jennings determines the location of the defective circuit and removes it, subsequently rigging the machine to explode in a few minutes. Jennings uses the machine one last time, seeing a vision of himself being shot by an FBI agent in the catwalks above the machine. Soon, Rethrick's men storm the room and, after a brief shootout, Jennings and Porter escape to the catwalks. Rethrick is waiting there, holding them at gunpoint, the same tableau Jennings previously saw. When Jennings' watch, taken from the envelope, beeps, Jennings ducks in time to avoid the FBI Agent's bullet that then kills Rethrick. The machine is destroyed, and Jennings and Porter escape the FBI in the chaos. When Agent Dodge and his men arrive and investigate, they take sympathy and report Jennings killed in the destruction.

In the film's conclusion, Jennings, Porter, and Shorty have opened a greenhouse nursery. Jennings recalls a fortune cookie note from the envelope and discovers one last act he had done with the machine, foreseeing the results of a $90 million lottery and leaving the winning ticket in Porter's birdcage.


Affleck as Michael Jennings


The film features several of director Woo's trademarks, including two Mexican standoffs, the appearance of a dove, and a hollow birdcage similar to the opening tea house scene of Hard Boiled.


Critical response

Paycheck was met with negative critical reception. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 27% based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 10.[1] Metacritic holds a score of 43/100 based on reviews from 34 critics.[2]

Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club gave the film a positive review, calling it a "smart thriller" and praising "Woo's wonderful sense of timing and rhythm."[3] Chris Barsanti of Film Threat also praised Paycheck, calling it "one of the more competent and reassuring action movies to come out for quite some time."[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film two stars (out of four), saying that he "enjoyed the movie" but felt that it "exploits [Philip K. Dick's story] for its action and plot potential, but never really develops it."[5] K. J. Doughton of Film Threat called the film "John Woo lite," and a "neutered variation on his earlier, superior works."[6] James Berardinelli gave the film one and a half stars out of four, calling it "a bad film, complete with lackluster acting, brainless writing, and uninspired direction."[7]


The film won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor - Ben Affleck, which also included Gigli and Daredevil. After asking why he did not get his trophy, he was presented the Razzie live on Larry King Live a week later, which he promptly broke. The broken Razzie was sold on eBay for enough money to cover the hall rental for the following year's ceremonies. While hosting Saturday Night Live, Ben Affleck joked that he would have walked out of the premiere and asked for his money back until he realized he was in the movie.


  1. ^ "Paycheck".  
  2. ^ "Paycheck".  
  3. ^ Scott Tobias. "Review by Scott Tobias".  
  4. ^ "Review by Chris Barsanti".  
  5. ^ Review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
  6. ^ Review by K. J. Doughton, Film Threat
  7. ^ Review by James Berardinelli, ReelViews

External links

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