Reverse engineering is Michael Jennings' (Ben Affleck) profession. Give him the latest hi-tech gadget, and in short order he can disassemble and decode the inner workings, rebuild it, and even add a few improvements. His skill at ripping off technological secrets from other companies has put him in great demand, and for that he fetches an attractive price.
But how do you keep a guy who lives with other people's secrets secure? Fortunately within the realm of this slightly futuristic world, there are memory-erasing devices that can selectively destroy a timeframe of events from your mind. Thus Michael is unlikely to ever bring his problems home from work.
Unfortunately he also appears to have forgotten to bring home the bacon.
Expecting to pick up a fat paycheck for close to $100 million after his last three-year project, the engineer is surprised when he is informed he chose to forfeit the promised lucrative stock options. Even more confusing is the envelope of personal belongings the company returns to him. Dumping it out on the table, he finds a collection of unremembered and seemingly random objects like a watch, coin, bullet, book of matches, and a paperclip.
Of course he has no defense because he can't recall a thing that's happened in the past three years. His curiosity is heightened after discovering the FBI want to talk to him. After a few near-death experiences, Michael bumps into a biologist named Rachel (Uma Thurman), who claims she's been his romantic interest while he was working on the confidential project. Knowing he must have had a good reason to trash the cash in favor of a few worthless trinkets, the pair (and the audience) set off to figure out why.
This sci-fi puzzler is based on a short story penned by Philip K. Dick who also provided the creative seed for Minority Report and Blade Runner. Typically audiences put this type of complex plot under the microscope--and this one reveals some holes, especially in the last act. Yet parents may appreciate this film's reliance on action and story as opposed to sex to keep the plot moving. The violence does build toward the finale with explosions, hand-to-hand combat, and gunplay resulting in the deaths of many unnamed characters. But even profanities are sparse for this genre, making this Paycheck a possible title to cash in on for teens and adults during the holiday season.