Prayer Focus
Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense action violence and brief language

Reviewed by: Ed Cox

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen and Adult
Action Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Thriller
1 hr. 50 min.
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

Starring: Ben Affleck, John Davis, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti | Directed by: John Woo | Produced by: Michael Hackett, John Woo, Terence Chang, John Davis | Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Paycheck (based upon Phillip K. Dick’s short story of the same title)—Ben Affleck plays the main character Michael Jennings in a movie advertised in the same breath as “MI-2,” “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner”. Michael is a “for hire” intellectual property thief, taking the best of a competitor’s product, reverse engineering same and coming up with the competitive answer. When finished, he has his memory “fried” for reasons not clearly outlined in the movie; everyone else gets to remember his fine works, but all he gets is a paycheck.

The story picks up the pace when he agrees to take on a two-year project, something with “fiber optics.” Upon completion, he finds he has renounced his massive promised payout, only receiving an envelope of common pocket items. Add in the fact that the big corporation wants him removed to ensure the secrecy of his work, and the plot begins to congeal.

The basic premise of the movie suffers when one considers the morality of it. Michael Jennings is a thief, one that steals the works of others with the end result causing material harm to the innovator. Michael does decide during the chase that he would prefer to not to be a bullet magnet, but there is never any resolution on the issue of theft.

Michael and his girlfriend Rachel (Uma Thurman) room together during the three year project, but this never enters into the main story as that period of time is only referenced, not presented in the film. Michael and Rachel are shown in bed together (sheets between them), as he awakens her while signing Happy Birthday. One kiss and one provocative evening gown is about as racy as this one gets.

God’s name is taken in vain numerous times (which means moderate in Hollywood speak), offering nothing to the character’s development. There are a few other salty expressions, but nothing of what would be considered strong for its audience.

With John Woo as the director, you would be correct in expecting more than a little motion in the picture. The action is frequent, but there is more shattering glass than actual violence. The only blood shown is from a cut on Rachel’s hand after one altercation.

From a Christ-centered perspective, this is a fallen movie. The main character is a white collar thief, he lives with a woman whom he has not married (although they are referred to as “engaged”), and there is never any remorse for any harm done.

There is one scene where there are visual, mystic religious references (e.g., palmistry); these are offered up as what Michael Jennings does to receive guidance before an important decision, but they never receive center stage in the movie. The whole scene is no more than 15 seconds, but the image is still there.

This film could have been shot at the local lumberyard, for this film is rife with wooden performances. Ben Affleck is never one that can reach out through the camera and grab the audience. Uma Thurman is not on-screen long enough to establish her character and Aaron Eckhart as the bad guy only glares evil . With only three actors sharing the screen for most of the film, the money that was saved went into the “Woo” factor.

The action part of the film plays like a “Mission Impossible” prequel, as if they were on a tighter timetable and budget while figuring out what the real film could be. Some very nice driving sequences (if you like your BMW car with two wheels missing), but nothing that hasn’t been done before.

I saw this movie in a very comfortable theater, yet found myself wiggling in the chair with impatience. The plot was only so-so (why erase only one participants memory), the score was invisible (explosions were used to set the mood) and the acting was uninspired (“we are the sum of our experiences”). When viewing a film, you are moved by what you see and what you hear; with the components that were offered up, they withheld too much out of this Paycheck.

Violence: Moderate | Profanity: Moderate | Sex/Nudity: None

Year of Release—2003

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—…not as morally questionable as some PG-13 movies. Don’t let the fact that Uma Thurman stars, there are no sex scenes. This is mild mannered in that department compared to even the oldest of James Bond movies which are shown on regular TV. It had lots of action. It is difficult to find action movies that we would allow our teenagers to see. This movie is more than acceptable. If you read between the lines, the two main characters have obviously had an ongoing out of marriage relationship. But the movie jumps ahead in time an you do not witness any of their sexual relationship. It is not shown in detail. It doesn’t rank as high morally as the Lord of the Rings trilogy however it is a good alternative when you are looking for a good saturday night action movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Donna Fagan, age 45
Positive—…My mom and I just finished watching it and we both loved it. Yes, it’s about a thief, but this movie has MUCH less objectionable content than any other PG-13 I’ve seen lately. The profanity was very mild and I was quite surprised considering that it’s an action movie. It does give you the impression that Jennings and his girlfriend sleep together, but at least we don’t have to watch that in this movie! As much as I wish more movies today displayed true Christian morals, it was nice to see one that did not so prominently show the world’s idea of morality. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than most of today’s movies! And it is a very entertaining movie. Watch it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—B. Davis, age 25
Neutral—Based on the action/drama movies that are available for a family to see… this movie was not bad. No the acting was not great but my 13 year old is not an acting critic. Brainless action flick that, compared to the real trash out there, was only slightly objectionable.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Christina Byrne, age 41
Negative—This film had the potential to be a really good movie. By normal Hollywood film standards, there were not an abundance of things in the film that were terribly objectionable with the exception of God’s name taken in vain several times and the implication that the two lead characters had lived together for the three years they had been working together. That being the case, had the actors really put any heart into their acting and had the movie not depended so much on an explosion or car chase every 3 to 5 minutes, the movie could have been worth the money to see it. However, by Christian standards, this movie was really empty. I found little or no real redeeming message to hang onto walking out of the theater. The main character is nothing more than a highly paid white collar thief which the movie seems to …glamorize. That’s basically the entire premise of the movie. The thief gets cheated out of his “paycheck” and then spends the remainder of the movie trying to “undo” what has happened to him… but only so that he can get back his ill-gotten paycheck. This one goes on my “only if your really, really bored” list.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Micky Shearon, age 41
Positive—…Excellent sci-fi concepts, even though sometimes not very believeable. It was worth my money to see.
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—Eric Book, age 39
Positive—I have no idea why the negative reviews are out there. This was a wonderful film full of suspense, intrigue, and an intelligent film. It is definitely not “mindless” as some would suggest. I would definitely see it again. There are 5 in our family, and all loved it.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Tim Wiebe, age 40
Positive—After reviewing this movie on-line, I took my 12 yr. old son to see it and was pleased that a high adrenaline action flick was offered without sex scenes and excess foul language. The plot was a little confusing and while I wouldn’t say this movie had any redeeming moral value, it was entertaining and safe for young teens… something not many PG-13 movies are.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Rachelle Smotherman, age 30
Neutral—Two words: “ALREADY DONE” “Paycheck” was very creative, had good effects, and was fairly well acted. That said, the negatives were that this story line seemed as though it stole the highlights from other sci-fi thrillers such as Minority Report and Mission Impossible. If you like this movie, Minority Report has a little deeper plot that is more interesting. “Paycheck” is a good movie, with surprisingly little language (for a Ben Affleck movie) and no nudity/sex scenes and some moderate violence. Good movie, but really predictable.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Joseph, age 21
Positive—This movie is a high action flick that keeps you guessing to the very end. It is very entertaining, and best yet it contains little objectionable content. For profanity, only three misuses of God’s name, 5 s-words and a couple mild profanities which is less than most action flick I know. Sexual content is non-existent, a mild comment is present. Violence is gore-free and restrained, nothing teens and adults should have problems with. I would recommend Paycheck to anyone who want a decent action flick!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Matt Young, age 20
I just wanted to point out a possible oversight in the review… The author cited the erasure of Ben Affleck’s memory as a fault in the plot of the movie. The author wondered why only his memory was erased and not other people in the company. I think an explanation for this is that Ben Affleck was an engineer and he knew all the inner workings of the time machine. He could easily have built a duplicate of the machine for himself (for example), but since his memory was erased, he couldn’t. Just because other people in the company knew about the machine doesn’t mean that their memory had to be erased because they only knew what the machine did, which is not nearly as valuable of a corporate secret as knowing how it works.
—Russell B. Lodge
Neutral—I didn’t really find anything offensive really. It was no worse than everything else out there made by Hollywood. I’m not saying I condone it, but I’ve just let most of slide off my back and never give it a second thought. I had a little problem with the plot however (WARNING—if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t wish to be spoiled, don’t read any further—BIG plot spoiler ahead!!!)

The closest star to us—Alpha Centauri is 4 light years away. Meaning that the light from that star takes 4 years to get to Earth. Yet, this movie claims that Michael Jennings has designed a laser that shoots around the Universe and back as if it were a ship sailing around the world. And it does this in an instant to be able to tell you your future. Are we supposed to believe this?
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Pete in Buffalo, age 25
Neutral—This movie would fit well as the 2nd feature at the drive-in. It has excellent cinematography and is generally very well made (kudos to John Woo for not putting in any sex!)! Objectionably, though, there is some bad language and you don’t get a deep emotional connection with any of the characters. If Rachel and Michael were married, I’m sure you would (they are living together [bleck], but as I said, no sex shown). Over-all, not bad, but not great either.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Noelle, age 16
Positive—I Loved “Paycheck”! It was so awesome My sisters and my mom watched it together and after the movie my mom said “Wow that was the best movie I have seen in a long time.” There was hardly anything objectional in the movie I thinkj everyone should go and see it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Rachel, age 13
Positive—I really liked this movie its got great special effects and a different story line from any movie I’ve seen before. Its similar yes but its also different. I think its a good movie. Yes, what he is doing in the movie is stealing someone elses work and then working backwards to see how its put together and then builds something simlilar and better and then drives out the competition who made it in the first place. I would recommend this movie to someone who likes Ben Affleck and Sci-Fi. If you are looking for a movie full of morals then this isn’t it but in the end he realizes what he has done and sets things right. The movie starts slow but not boring just not lots of action but draws you in wondering what it is about then things start happening and then lots of action. there are no sex scenes in the movie to speak of there is some language but not tons as in other movies with the same rating. I would say its worth seeing but not the best movie Ben Afflick has done. Check it out you might like it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Jason, age 28
Neutral—This move contained some awfully violent scenes. Way too often people deem a movie as acceptable because there’s no nudity or bad language. I know would feel much more comfortable with my children seeing/hearing either of those things (though I’d prefer neither) than dying a horrible death. I wouldn’t take kids to this at all. This movie did have an interesting plot, and as usual (excluding Gili), Ben Affleck did a fabulous job. This would make a good date movie, but not anything to share with the family (unless you have adult children).
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Kat, age 18
Positive—I saw this film on DVD. I liked it. There were some swear words, but overall it was one of the cleanest movies I’ve seen in a while. It was a good story, but there were guns and bad guys. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 11.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Brittany Marie Jensen, age 13
Movie Critics
…the great John Woo directed and stumbles again…
—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
…Maybe Affleck was drawn to this movie because it involves the loss of memory. Who wouldn’t want to forget Gigli, and now this?…
—Claudia Puig, USA Today

…Paycheck is slick dreck, well-done but ridiculous…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…Paycheck begins with a thought-provoking idea from Philip K. Dick, exploits it for its action and plot potential, but never really develops it…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…bankrupt piece of sci-fi do-do…
—E! Online
…‘Paycheck’ is less appealing than a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking…
—James Berardinelli, ReelViews