2 Stars Movies

John Woo’s Paycheck isn’t fun, weird, or subversive enough for a Philip K. Dick tale

When it comes to action cinema maestros like John Woo — I can enjoy the the hyped-up action and weirdness of something like Face/Off, but find that the extreme violence and gunplay can sometimes cross the line from escapism into being inhumane. Paycheck, scoring a mere PG-13 from the MPAA, is less violent than most of Woo’s others, but also unfortunately less weird or even fun.

It’s also not as smart or subversive as a Philip K. Dick adaptation ought to be. I think Minority Report is the first so far to capture what made Dick’s tales so timeless and relevant.

Uma Thurman, following her star turn as the Kung-Fu action cinema goddess in Kill Bill, plays backup love interest to Ben Affleck, who himself is no great shakes here. He was funny and self-deprecating when recently hosting Saturday Night Live, if a little juvenile. His 90’s goatee-wearing, ironic geek guy in Chasing Amy was actually quite realistic. Even his Daredevil hinted at the suffering and isolation in the midst of all the superhero silliness (there’s a chilling scene where we see him return home after a night of crime-busting, where he painfully strips off his protective uniform to reveal more than a few bruises and scars, and then blithely chews a handful of pain-killers straight). But he doesn’t read as a convincing engineer in Paycheck, and his good looks and physique directly contradict dialog in the film that describes him as just a regular guy, and not a secret agent action hero.

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