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Michael Jennings has a great job. He's a reverse engineer, paid huge sums of money to figure out how rival technology works and improve on it. In exchange for his massive paycheck, he must have his memory wiped to prevent any information leaks. Life is good.
His latest project at Allcom was supposed to be his biggest yet, lasting three years and earning him enough money to finally retire - but something has gone wrong. His 8-figure payment has been replaced by a manila envelope full of random odds and ends. The FBI wants to talk to him about his apparent involvement in the death of another engineer. And a lot of people are trying to kill him. Now Jennings finds himself in the strange position of having to reverse engineer his own future... before time runs out.
Paycheck (2003) is a film adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, and Aaron Eckhart, and directed by John Woo. It was received poorly by critics, but made about $30 million more than its budget back at the box office.
Paycheck contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion: In this movie, Uma Thurman plays a biologist who works in a garden / lab where she can call wind, rain and lightning. In previous films she has played Poison Ivy and the goddess Aphrodite.
- Aerosol Flamethrower
- Call to Agriculture
- ~Chekhov's Armoury~: The envelope that Jennings substituted for his paycheck, though this one borders on Deconstruction.
- ~Chekhov's Gun~: Every item in the envelope, including a single bullet but no gun. Gets fired anyway, of course.
- Also, the remote-controlled grabbing device in Rachel's lab, along with her thunder, lightning, and wind effects.
- ~Chekhov's Skill~: In the beginning of the film there is a short scene of Jennings training at the gym, hitting targets with a staff. Guess how he beats up mooks near the ending?
- Cool Bike: The BMW R 1150R Rockster utilized in a chase scene. Which, of course, Jennings had bought ahead of time.
- Disturbed Doves: Goes without saying. John Woo's trademark.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Car vs. pipe. Point goes to the pipe.
- Five Second Foreshadowing: The bad guy stands in front of the machine that shows the future, but only sees his own back, as he is futilely trying to get away from the exploding machine. He realizes that this means the machine will explode, and futilely tries to get away from it.
- Framed Clue: The extra stamp on the envelope.
- Guilty Pleasures
- Gunpoint Banter: Happens twice.
- High Concept
- Hot Scientist: Michael Jennings meets a beautiful woman at a fancy dinner who turns out to be a biologist.
- Intangible Time Travel: The time scope.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: A rare film example. Justified here, through convoluted means, in that the character knew exactly what was going to happen in the future and when (see Note to Self:, below).
- Large Ham: Renthrick. See Narm below.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Literally.
- Magical Security Cam: The memory reader.
- Memory Gambit: Knowing his memory would be wiped, Jennings left clues to lead himself to the info or escape route he needed.
- Mexican Standoff: It's a John Woo film after all.
- Mood Whiplash: An assassin attempt to take a shot at Jennings from behind his newspaper disguise while in a subway station. Then, suddenly, a small kid with a toy revolver approaches the assassin in disguise, and "shoots" him (saying something along the lines of "Bang! Bang! You're dead!"). The assassin, however, ignores him and takes out his long badass silenced pistol (BFG) to take aim at Jennings. The kid only seems annoyed.
- Note to Self:: Made a bit difficult, as the only things Jennings could sneak out were innocuous items.
- Ontological Mystery
- Plot Tailored to the Party
- Quest for Identity
- Retroactive Preparation: A variant. Jennings doesn't have a time machine, but he did have access to the time portal.
- Screw Destiny: What the machine would hopefully do, though Jennings's initial use of it indicates it's closer to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The eventual conclusion seems to be that you can do it, but it's really hard.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Subverted.
- Someday This Will Come in Handy: Inverted. Jennings was working from (temporary) foreknowledge of his own future, and after his memory wipe he has to figure out what is needed where.
- Spotting the Thread
- Tricked-Out Time: The characters can do all sorts of stuff knowing it already happened, then go back and undergo a memory wipe.
- Viewer-Friendly Interface: Every computer in this movie.
- Wealthy Ever After
- With This Herring: Subverted.
- Xanatos Roulette: Jennings pulls one of these on himself.
- You Will Know What to Do: Pulled off artfully in the movie (he gets twenty of these), but with a bit more flair in the short story.