Author: Philip K. Dick (story)
Director: John Woo
I was looking forward to this film when I first heard about it. Based on a PKD story and directed by Woo? Wow! But unfortunately, Woo was not the right director for this film. The best aspect of Dick’s work is psychological complexity. Woo’s an excellent action director. The two compete against each other in this: it’s not a great action film, and it’s not deep enough to qualify as psychologically interesting. The story’s a great concept: an engineer does work of questionable legality for corporation and has his memories erased afterward so there’s no record. After his biggest job — three years of work erased — he discovers his big payday is nil. As he investigates, he discovers the FBI wants him, and his former employer is now trying to kill him. He has no idea why since his memories were erased. But a package he sent himself that contains twenty ordinary items (cigarettes, hairspray, matches, etc.) turns out to be exactly the items he needs to get himself out of troublesome situations. It’s like he knew what was going to happen and planned for it, sending himself exactly what he needed. It’s pretty cool and well done, but Woo throws in over-the-top action sequences that aren’t the least bit believable (two scientists outrun a dozen gunmen and the FBI on a motorbike, the engineer beats up fifty trained bad guys, etc.). The film suffers in other ways as well, including a weak beginning (it doesn’t get going until the big job presentation). The film’s best moments are the science fiction and psychological impact of the invention, but those are glossed over. Woo himself said he doesn’t like sci-fi and changed the script to be more action-oriented: a sad mistake. None of this makes for a terrible movie, but just not a great one. The middle of the film is the best part. The ending’s predictable Hollywood. Still, when it’s good, it’s excellent, and overall I liked it. Just don’t expect a great film and it’s enjoyable.