Let’s dispense with the fat paycheck jokes, shall we? This widely reported homage to Hitchcock (think Strangers On A Train and North By Northwest) is based on a Philip K. Dick short story written in the '50s. And John Woo has tackled it with surprisingly blatant disinterest. Predictability is rampant, and his usual flair and style are sadly conspicuous by their absence. To the story.
Michael Jennings (Affleck) is a genius engineer whose talent lies in taking a good idea from one company and refining it for the competitor, enabling them to make millions. For a clean legal slate, however, he has to get a memory wipe by a process that involves nearly (damn) frying his brain. At the end of it, he will have no recollection of the work he has done or anything else that happened during that time, and will have a nice little paycheck waiting for him.
Now the most memory that can be wiped by this process is limited to a couple of months. So when a new, more effective memory-wipe process becomes available, Michael’s old friend Jimmy Rethrick (Eckhart) invites him to work on a project that will eliminate three years from his life, but will guarantee him an eight-figure paycheck. So he goes to work, falls in love with girlie biologist Rachel Porter (Thurman), and finishes the project successfully.
Cut to three years later, when Michael’s trying to pick up his life where it left off, but things are falling apart around him. He has no recollection of the past three years, and finds that he has given up his paycheck (90 million dollar stock options), instead mailing to himself a package that contains a number of seemingly insignificant things. Soon, the Feds are shooting at him, Jimmy’s men are shooting at him, and yes, we want to shoot at him, too. If just to get him to act.
Anyway, so the deal is that the project he worked on was a machine that allows the user to see into the future. And the future’s not looking so good for Mr. J Lo (in the movie, we mean). Determined to change it, he has accumulated these crucial items, which include a bullet, coin and train ticket, so he can set a course of actions into place. And although he doesn’t know when to use what, everything seems to fall into place nevertheless. There are no explanations given, and luck is his lady throughout. Can he save the world, beat the bad guy, live happily ever after with Rachel, and end up a bazillionaire while he’s at it? And will he manage to act for even five minutes? Don’t hold your breath.
The movie is peppered with insultingly inane dialogue, and suffers a massive Minority Report hangover. Excepting the style and slickness, there are many similarities from technology toys (a holographic screen that is operated by fingertip click-and-drag) to the neon sign blinking message that the future is in our hands, we make our own destiny, we hold the all-important tool of choice, etc. And the self-indulgent Mr. Woo even has a dove flying out of an open doorway. It’s time for MI-3, we think.
Ben just doesn’t quite cut it as super-brilliant engineer, and seems somewhat bored throughout. Uma is just plain annoying, and should stick to lopping off the tops of people’s heads. But the biggest tragedy is Six Feet Under’s brilliant Michael C. Hall, who is reduced to acting coppy and keeping his face completely stonelike, with the exception of the occasionally raised eyebrow.