Paycheck (2003)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

In John Woo’s latest thriller gunplay has taken the backseat a bit – but only a bit, really – and made room for a more facetted story. Based on a short story by Philip Dick – who also wrote the short story for ’Minority Report’ – ’Paycheck’ is the slightly futuristic story in which a brilliant engineer is essentially selling his skills to companies by the month to work on highly classified projects. As a result by the end of the project his memory will be erased to make sure nothing is being disclosed an he is picking up a big fat paycheck. After doing the biggest job in his career however, something odd is going on. Not only is his payday worthless – devalued upon his own request, which if course, he can’t remember – but what’s more is that suddenly the FBI is on his heels and certain people actually try to kill him. A race ensues as Michael Jennings is trying to figure out what exactly it is that he has been working on for the past three years. His only help comes from an envelope with strange items he has never seen before…

Paramount Home Entertainment is launching ’Paycheck’ onto DVD in a wonderful widescreen presentation that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The image is absolutely clean and free of defects, and the level of detail in the picture is stunning, bringing out every detail of the movie’s production design. Colors are vibrant and saturated, creating bold tinges and hues while the black levels are rock solid, giving the image visual depth without ever losing definition. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression also without flaws.

The audio comes as an aggressive and highly immersive 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix that bombards the viewer from all directions at times. It is finely delineated with great spatial integration and a wide sound field that makes the best of the format. Dialogues are always understandable and the music is fat with a good bass extension and clear high ends, nicely reproducing the timbres of the orchestral score.

The DVD contains a commentary track by director John Woo that is insightful and informative, shedding light on many production aspects of the film. Woo is, as always, very candid about the way he works, how he achieves certain effects and why he decides to do things a certain way. Woo fans undoubtedly want to check out this commentary to get the full scoop. A commentary track by writer Dean Georgaris is also included but even though it holds a lot of information, I found it less intriguing than Woo’s comments.

Also included are promo featurettes with interviews and behind the scenes footage, covering aspects such as the stunt work and the production design for the movie. A selection of deleted scenes rounds out the release.

’Paycheck’ is a gripping tale and the way it is told gives the viewer a nice way to ’guess along’ while the events unfold. There are a few twists here and there but overall the film is not entirely full of surprises and the ending, while gratifying is also not exactly a plot twist. Still, ’Paycheck’ is an action-filled guy-on-the-run roller-coaster with John Woo’s signature written all over, and that alone makes it well worth a viewing.