Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Paycheck Movie Poster Image
This movie just sags, even in the action scenes.
  • PG-13
  • 2003
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strong female character.


Action violence, guns, explosions. Characters in peril.


Mild sexual situations.


Some strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has extended action violence with guns, chases, kickboxing, explosions, and character deaths. Characters use strong language, smoke, and drink, and there are mild sexual situations.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byUnknown Agent December 10, 2015

Really Good

Good movie has some iffy content
Parent of a 10 and 13-year-old Written byLauraMac June 13, 2010

Fun action flick, with some interesting ideas

smart sci-fi, explores the role of memory in who we are, and also tackles free will. I thought the action was very fun, and loved waiting to see how he was goi... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byRobWithNoJob May 15, 2020

Tense Action Thriller For Most Tweens

There are some violent scenes in the movie. But I think it's fine for anyone young teens or even preteens. Some of the younger ones may not understand what... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 December 19, 2016

Kinda failed remake.

Just like Minority Report, this movie was a very sad remake of the book written by Phillip K. Dick. He's an amazing author, and aside from Bladerunner, non... Continue reading

What's the story?

In PAYCHECK, Ben Affleck plays Michael Jennings, a brilliant engineer. In two months, he takes apart a revolutionary project for its competitor and makes it all but obsolete. Then the client writes him a big check, his friend Shorty (Paul Giamatti) zaps out his memory of the last eight weeks, and Michael is off to make the kind of memories he likes to keep, all of which seems fine to him. When Shorty tells him to think about stopping, Michael says, "My memories are basically highlights. The stuff you erase doesn't matter." Cue evil mogul Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), who offers Michael a three-year project. Then cut to three years later. Michael's memory is gone, and so is the $90 million he was supposed to be paid. All he has is a manila envelope with a bunch of mundane items -- hairspray, a fortune from a fortune cookie, a pack of cigarettes, a paperclip, a matchbook. He knows it was a message he sent to himself before his memory was wiped. But what does it mean? And will he ever remember his relationship with a beautiful biologist (Uma Thurman)?

Is it any good?

We can stand it when a thriller requires some suspension of disbelief, but the boredom of this would-be thriller is unforgivable. The movie just sags, even in the action scenes. Without spoiling what little suspense there is, all I can say is that the big "reveal" removes any sense of narrative tension by making the outcome all but inevitable. Even Woo's trademarks, the fluttering birds and the two-gun stand-off, feel perfunctory.

Scientists will discover a way to bend the laws of time before anyone remembers that a movie about bending the laws of time has to have some way of handling the problem of determinism versus free will that is if not plausible then at least consistent. The idea (from Blade Runner's Philip K. Dick) of Paycheck is an intriguing one -- a super-smart computer whiz who trades not only his intellect but also his memory for big bucks. Even on one of his good days, this set-up would have been a challenge for director John Woo, whose stylish staging has turned saggy scripts into highly watchable films. But Woo seems to have taken a hit from that memory-eraser.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether there are memories they would like to or be willing to erase. If you, like Michael, wanted to make sure that someone really knew you, what question would you ask?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate