Paycheck appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not excellent, the transfer usually satisfied.
Sharpness worked fine most of the time. Although I noticed a few slightly ill-defined shots, those remained in the minority. Instead, the movie mostly boasted concise, distinctive images. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and edge enhancement remained minor.
Print flaws weren’t a major issue, but they nonetheless showed up more frequently than I’d expect for such a recent film. The movie betrayed occasional specks, marks and nicks. These never became terribly distracting, but since a modern, big-budget flick should come with virtually no blemishes, the movie showed too many defects.
Colors offered good range. One shot with red lighting was a bit runny, but otherwise the movie featured hues that looked lively and dynamic. Black levels were dark and tight, while shadows showed good clarity. A few low-light shots could seem slightly drab, but those weren’t a real issue. Honestly, the various print flaws were my biggest complaint and the main reason the image ended up with a “B”.
The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Paycheck seemed mostly satisfying. The soundfield presented an active and lively piece that often engaged the five main speakers. The film showed distinctive imagery throughout the movie that placed different auditory elements accurately within the spectrum and meshed them together nicely. Music provided strong stereo imaging, and effects popped up from the appropriate locations. Quieter scenes displayed natural ambience, while the many action set pieces involved engrossing and vibrant imaging.
Audio quality also seemed generally positive. Speech usually appeared natural and crisp, but I occasionally heard some light edginess. Music sounded bright and dynamic as the disc neatly replicated the score. Effects packed a nice wallop when necessary, as these elements seemed clean and distinct at all times. Bass response came across as deep and tight, and the low-end added a good layer of depth and oomph to the package. This wasn’t a great soundtrack, but the audio of Paycheck mainly worked well.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray Paycheck compare with those of the original DVD? The audio seems virtually identical for both, but the visuals look better here. Actually, I suspect that the Blu-ray uses the same transfer created for the DVD, as it makes little sense that the two would share the same prevalence of print flaws. Nonetheless, the Blu-ray comes across as tighter and richer. I thought the DVD looked murky much of the time, but the Blu-ray demonstrated better clarity.
The Blu-ray replicates all the supplements from the DVD. We start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director John Woo, who completes a running, screen-specific effort. He gets into a mix of topics that include the cast, the visual look of the film, effects and stunts, and the influence of Hitchcock on the movie.
At times, Woo becomes a little bogged down in happy talk, but he also gives us some interesting insights into comparisons between his Hong Kong days and Hollywood, and he also delves into various thoughts about different movie genres. This doesn’t turn into a terribly scintillating track, but it goes through a mix of fairly interesting subjects and merits a listen.
For the second track, we hear from screenwriter Dean Georgaris, who presents his own running, screen-specific chat. Unsurprisingly, he mostly discusses the script, as he tells us about changes made among various drafts. Georgaris also gets into some production notes and observations from the set, but the alterations executed to the script dominate the piece. At times these become informative and interesting, but in general the track seems somewhat flat. Georgaris simply narrates the movie a lot of the time, and the commentary mainly fails to seem very engaging. It includes a moderate amount of data but never takes flight.
Next we find a pair of featurettes. Called Paycheck: Designing the Future, the first runs 18 minutes, 13 seconds, as it presents the usual mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Woo, producer Terence Chang, production designer William Sandell, visual effects supervisor Gregory L. McMurry, and actors Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore and Aaron Eckhart. We get some general notes about the script and the story as well as Woo’s attitudes toward the project. Then we learn about the movie’s visual look and its sets. The second half of “Designing” seems the most interesting, as the first few minutes either consist of fluff or repeat material from Woo’s commentary. When we get into the production design, the piece becomes more compelling, though it remains a slight program, especially since its last few minutes degenerate mostly into praise for Woo.
Entitled Tempting Fate: The Stunts of Paycheck, the second featurette fills 16 minutes, 46 seconds. It uses the usual format as we get comments from Woo, Affleck, Giamatti, Thurman and US stunt coordinator Gregg Smrz. The latter participant dominates as we learn about the creation of the motorcycle chase, the subway sequence, and the fight in the hydroponic garden. “Stunts” packs a lot of information into its brief running time and seems like a tight examination of the topics. We find good insight into the design and execution of the bits, and lots of cool behind the scenes shots help make this a fun program.
After this we find seven Deleted/Extended Scenes. Via the “Play All” feature, these last a total of 12 minutes, 27 seconds. The first three scenes are quite brief and don’t tell us much, though the first adds some interesting backstory for Michael. The fourth shows that Rethrick put Rachel through a memory extraction to try to track Michael, while the fifth depicts another confrontation between Michael and Rethrick. The sixth one gets into some machinations behind the scenes with the feds.
The final scene is an alternate ending. I won’t discuss its content because I’d have to give away too much. It’s not more satisfying than the current conclusion, but it’s also not any worse. Overall, most of the deleted footage seems superfluous, though the one with the info about Michael’s past adds some depth to the piece.
Not anywhere near as good as John Woo’s best flicks but also not his worst effort, Paycheck comes across as a fairly average movie. Blessed with a clever story, it generally keeps us interested, but it never takes flight and becomes anything special. The Blu-ray presents good picture marred mainly by more print defects than expected. Audio satisfies, and we get a reasonably interesting set of extras. Action fans might give this one a rental, but I can’t recommend it beyond that level.
For those who know they like Paycheck, I think it’s worth an upgrade from the DVD. I felt disappointed with that disc’s murky visuals, so the tighter picture quality found here pleased me. The image could use a good cleaning, but it remained pretty positive otherwise.
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