Famous engineer known all around the world, Michael Jennings works on top secret projects, sponsored by high-tech companies. At the end of every mission, his memory is "erased" by contract to prevent him from revealing any confidential information. Then he is given a substantial check. But this time, James Rethrick, his main employer from Allcom, proposes him a new business rather lucrative. It is not 6 workdays he proposes him but truly a 3 years long contract for a minimum guarantee of ten million dollars. Naturally, about this long period of his life, there shouldn't remains any souvenir. Jennings accepts.
Three years have passed by and Jennings arrived at the term of his mission. For him everything happened in a fraction of a second. When the engineer is going to get his money, a simple envelope containing only heteroclite objects is given him. Believing his employer, Jennings would have given up in advance his fees.
Shocked and unbelieving, Jennings did not only exchanged three years of his life for some unfortunates objects, but he is futhermore caught by the FBI for interrogation. Guessing the bad form the events are turning, Michael succeeds in escaping them only to notice that his former employer is wanting to kill him.
Jennings discovers that the objects are so many indications relative to his past - a rewind past from which his memory has kept only tiny tracks. Little by little the objects show themselves as utility such as they allow him to reconstitute the puzzle. The inquiry leads him to meet Rachel Porter. Rachel who works for Allcom is the woman he is in love with and he is discovering today. Together they have to flee their merciless employer launched to their cases.
Jennings knows now that he has himself choosen the harmless objects contained in the envelope and these ones drive him in his quest for the truth. When he discovers that one of the object is the suite of winnings numbers of the last Bingo national edition, he understands that the invention Rethrick is trying to protect is a machine capable to predict the future. For proof, a microfilm hidden on one of the stamps of the envelope reveals him pages of several newspapers future edited, which prove that this discovery is going to lead to nuclear war and to destruction of the humanity. To prevent such a fate of the Earth, Rachel and him enter Allcom's laboratory with the strong intention to destroy the machine …
Spoiler ! the end of the story is revealed below…
But the machine is out of order and Jennings took care before the end of his job to install there a virus to paralyze it. It is so without problem that Rethrick lets them penetrate into into the laboratory of the company. When Jennings will have repair the machine, he will then be able to get rid of the couple. Michael repairs the machine but traps it by means of one of the last objects still present in his saving envelope. Helped by knowledge of the future, the engineer will succeed in thwarting Rethrick's plans and in modifying the course of time. Not only Jennings and Rachel will survive due to an ultimate object but still Rethrick will find death following the destruction of his predicting future machine. For Jennings, the fruit of these three working years is not totally lost when he discovers the Bingo ticket that makes out of him a 90 million dollars winner.
Virtuoso of action films, John Woo signs with "Paycheck" his sixth American film after "Hard Target", "Broken Arrow", "Mission : Impossible 2", "Face/Off" and "Windtalkers". Admirer of author Philip K. Dick, two of his themes incited him to direct "Paycheck" on screen : memory manipulation and the excessive usage of the technology.
During the last 20 years, sci-fi author Philip.K. Dick has captivated and inspired several great producers : Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall) and recently, Steven Spielberg (Minority Report). Dick wrote between 1952 and 1982, year of his disappearance, not less than thirty novels and a hundred of news that revolutionized the gender by endowing it a psychological dimention.