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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Paycheck [Blu-ray]


(John Woo, 2003)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Davis Entertainment & Lion Rock

Blu-ray: Paramount Home Entertainment



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:58:46.119

Disc Size: 41,207,911,968 bytes

Feature Size: 36,473,991,168 bytes

Average Bitrate: 40.95 Mbps

Chapters: 22

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 19th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3578 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3578 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround



English, English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish, none




• Audio Commentary by Director John Woo

• Audio Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgaris

• Paycheck: Designing the Future - in SD (18:15)

• Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck – in SD (16:48)

• Extended/Deleted Scenes – in SD (12:27)




Description: Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) is a brilliant computer engineer hired for top-secret projects. After each job, Jennings' short-term memory is erased so he cannot recount any project information. Emerging from his latest assignment, a three-year contract with an eight-figure paycheck given to him by his longtime friend (Aaron Eckhart), Jennings is jolted when he is told that during the end of his assignment, he agreed to forfeit all payment.

Jennings has no recourse-until he receives a mysterious envelope containing clues to his forgotten past. With the help of a beautiful scientist (Uma Thurman) he once loved but now cannot remember, Jennings races to solve the puzzle of his past...while a terrifying discovery waits in his future.



The Film: 6
The idea of putting Philip K. Dick and John Woo together with enough money behind the production to realize any fancy must have seemed like a producer's dream. Indeed, there are familiar elements from Total Recall, in that the protagonist has had his memory wiped, but in advance of that he plants clues for himself later so that he can backtrack. In a way that's what the TV series Lost is all about.

The usually vapid Ben Affleck plays Jennings, a computer genius who hires himself to various companies to figure out ways to get the jump on the competition. At the end of each assignment he gets a fat paycheck and a memory wipe – just the weeks involved in the R&D – hell, that might want to use this guy again some day. One day, zillionaire Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart) offers Jennings a chance for a job so huge he can permanently retire – well, not too permanently, he hopes. It is expected to take three years of his life inside a high tech compound, but who cares when you have no soul to begin with! When Jennings "wakes up" three years later he finds that the cool $92,000,000 he just earned disappears almost before his eyes. Worse yet, there are guys out there that want to kill him and the feds are on his trail. What 's up with that?

But there are clues – clues that take Jennings a while to figure out that actually are clues to help him sort out what's what, who's who, and why's why – that is, if he doesn't get himself erased in the process.



Affleck is pretty good here, and while we might not take him for the genius he's supposed to be, he is convincing as a decent, uncomplicated guy who finds himself trying to make sense out of the nonsense he left himself in a manila envelope: a coin, a ring, a watch, a pair of sunglasses, an aerosol can, a paper clip – not a lot to go on. Uma Thurman plays Rachel, a woman who works at Rethrick's company and who may have had a three-year relationship with Jennings that he seems to have forgotten. Paul Giammati is an old friend that tries to help sort things out for Jennings. His character's nervousness may be a sign he is in over his head. But I wouldn't trust him. Would you?



Image: 9/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Paramount offers a strong image for its transfer to Blu-ray: sharp, highly resolved, often cool, light blue filtered color palette, solid blacks and generally natural skin tones. Contrast has a dynamic range that is well supported in Blu-ray. Grain is minimal without problematic DNR or distracting artifacts or edge enhancement.















Audio & Music: 8/7
An audio mix in uncompressed TrueHD 5.1 to match the excellent visuals. The music matches the exploding, fast driving effects in its immersive impact. Dialogue is always clear.


Operations: 6
There's very little to the uninteresting, unanimated menu page, but it's a cinch to navigate.




Extras: 5
There are two audio commentaries, between them they comprise the best of the extras, the others being your basic EPK material. The deleted and extended scenes are interesting but would not have made for a better film.



Bottom line: 7
Paycheck looks and sounds better than it plays as a plot, and Woo has done much better work both here and in Hong Kong. I mentioned Lost as a life-threatening adventure where characters attempt to sort themselves out with clues to their past, present and future – clues that operate for them and for the audience. Of course, the TV series has beaucoup hours to make it all come together (or just play with our minds), still any number of episodes make the case more effectively. That said, Paycheck offers a fun ride that doesn't insult us at every turn. The Blu-ray edition is the way to go on this one.


Leonard Norwitz
May 26th, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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