Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Notes on Paycheck 

Saw this with a friend; I wasn't really in the mood to wrangle about the perfect movie to watch, and he suggested it. I knew it was based on a story by Philip K. Dick, so I figured hey, what the heck.

This movie is actually a pretty decent movie wrapped in a terrible, terrible movie. That is, it has some very interesting elements, and I think that if whoever green-lighted it had said "Hey, let's make it for $120 million and clean up the script a bit," it would be a very different movie from the $60 million mess it is. Of course, that's always the case, you might say (I would disagree). But the kernel of quality, the K-Dickian essence is unmistakably there, and it was painful to see it squandered so badly. Well-rendered, it would have been great.

Instead, the movie looks only a bit better than something you'd see on USA's movie of the week. Supposedly in an advanced future, it's obviously filmed in the blandness of Canada, and frequently looks like it forgets that it isn't set in the present day. The major chase scene is a weird contrivance involving some motorcycle stunts through some improbably laid out railcars and metal tubes. It's lame, but it struck me as exactly what Minority Report could have been if the budget had been cut in half and lower-tier talent was used.
from the trailers, this film looked like they tried to combine memento with a few lame action flicks all mixed together.

based on that, i avoided it like the plague.
Like I said, it's a shame, because it had a very solid core.

The trailers did a terrible job selling the concept. It's not that at all. The guy is a reverse engineer. Corporations lock him up for months at a time, secretly, have him reverse engineer something, and then wipe his memory of the whole thing. He gets this big job that ties him up for 3 long years. He finds himself sitting in a chair, and the three years have gone by like the blink of an eye, but he has no memory of it, and people are trying to kill him. He cancelled his own (huge) payment a few weeks before, and instead mailed himself an envelope containing 20 everyday items: a paper clip, some cigarettes, a watch, a lighter, a key, a swipe card, a magnifying lens, a fortune cookie fortune, some hair spray, some ball bearings, a bullet, a diamond ring, a quarter, and a few other items.

Each of these is actually extremely important, and he discovers why as he goes along, prompting the question: how did he know he was going to need these exact items?

Like I said, very paranoid, classic Philip K. Dick. Tell me you don't want to see the movie I just described.
I was just talking about Minority Report with Anna last night. I read the script for it (I don't know how many summers back) and was kind of non-plussed. I wanted to see what they would do with it, but before that I went to see the Bourne Identity. The BI and the script I read were actually pretty similar and the BI film experience lead me to believe MR would suck.

Now, when I saw MR, they changed the script quite a bit. Some really dumb action scene ideas were replaced with some better actions scenes. (One of the removed scenes was this lame hologram thing with three cops looking like dozens of cops. They could perhaps have used something with the idea, but instead it was rather boring.) So, the BI and MR ended up being pretty different, but because BI had zero expectations going ahead it was a pleasant surprise that it didn't mess up.
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