Paycheck (2003)

Some rules that I have established of “Is this an ancient future cyberpunk movie?” I will answer some of these to determine the veracity of Paycheck‘s status.

Does it have the title of a Philip K. Dick book but not really have much to do with it?

Yes, it’s based on his story Paycheck which originally appeared in 1953.

Is there a lot of rain?

Not as much as others in the genre.

Does the male hero wear dress clothes and/or a trenchcoat?

It’s a black tie affair.

Do Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Dolph Lundgren or Udo Keir appear in it?

Affleck makes it.

Does the internet do something it can’t do yet, yet look dated AF?

Yes. Also, there’s a discussion of memory sizes, which no speculative science fiction should have, because people brag about their brain holding meg file sizes or less and in 2021, we just say, “Oh. That’s the size of a text message.”

Are Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, Ministry or God Lives Underwater on the soundtrack?

No, but they did have to pay to use “Happy birthday.”

Is it a crappy version of Blade Runner?

Aren’t they all?

Are there numerous Asian-influenced scenes?

It’s less Asian influenced than made by the man who everyone copied by putting a bird on their action scenes, John Woo.

Do people use future terms that make no sense?


Are there a lot of whirring sound effects?


Do people stare at the camera as it moves through a neon-lit strip club?


Are there rock stars in it?

No, sadly.

Is there a feral child?

I kind of wish there was.

When this was made, Paycheck was Ben Affleck’s biggest check, earning him $15 million. When asked why he starred in the film, he responds “The answer lies in the title.” He also lobbied to change his character from a Yankess to a Red Sox fan.

Woo was trying to make a Hitchcock-style movie and get away from what he was known for and Affleck begged for a Mexican standoff scene and got his way.

Affleck plays reverse engineer Michael Jennings, who analyzes the tech of his clients’ competitors and then improves it. He keeps his clients’ intellectual property safe by repeatedly having his buddy Shorty (Paul Giamatti) wipe his brain clean. Now, he’s stuck in a conspiracy with only clues from his past self to guide him, which is a lot like Total Recall, another Dick story turned film.

Now that he’s made a machine that predicts the future — then made himself forget — past Ben wants future Ben to stop that machine from falling into the hands of CEO James Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who is using a fake version of our hero’s love interest Rachel Porter (Uma Thurman) to get him to reveal the secrets he’s learned.

Affleck won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor for his performances in this movie, Gigli and Daredevil, going on Larry King Live to accept and break the award, which was auctioned off and paid for the hall rental for the following year’s award show.

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