Beautifully shot and impeccably acted, director Yôji Yamada’s Twilight Samurai is an achingly touching movie telling the tale of a simple low ranking Samurai struggling to eke out a meager existence during the waning days of the end of the Samurai era. Anime fans will no doubt know this period by the many genre series such as fan favorite Rurouni Kenshin while live action cinephiles will recognize this in films such as Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai. However, unlike those shows Twilight Samurai features next to no action and takes the viewer on an altogether enlightening look into a subject matter not so often touched upon that being the daily routine of a common Samurai. All this takes place a few scant years before the tectonic shift in the socio-political structure that will eventually become the Meiji Restoration and the final abolishment of the Samurai way of life.
Paycheck certainly has an intriguingly provocative premise based on a short story by Philip K. Dick but instead of exploring the concept further director John Woo makes the wholly erroneous decision to throw it to the curb content to replace it with wall to wall car chases, explosions and martial arts combat. What begins as a gripping thriller/mystery quickly devolves into rote action that is neither inventive nor strangely pulse pounding leaving audiences disengaged from the whole project altogether.