Swordfish (2001)

SWORDFISH opens with John Travolta talking to the camera about sh*t, as 
in all Hollywood movies are..., that the chief problem is "realism," and 
that Al Pacino could've *really* made something happen in DOG DAY AFTER-
NOON had his character started killing hostages at the outset.  Cut to 
behind the camera and his listeners are hostage negotiators, we learn, 
who escort Travolta-- and a wide-eyed Hugh Jackman (X-MEN)-- back to the 
big-city bank they're robbing, where each of the double-dozen employees 
have been wired with explosives, several packs of packed ball bearings, 
and perimeter-sensitive detonators.  You know, like an electronic dog 
collar, but with a considerable bigger "shock."  (And which is promptly 
demonstrated in 360-degree, slow-mo MATRIX style when one of the hostages 
is "rescued.")  Cut again, this time to a flashback, four days prior, to 
Jackman's character, introduced as world-class hacker-on-parole with 
child custody problems and a trailer-trashed lifestyle even *more* grubby 
than Mel Gibson's LETHAL WEAPON wacko.  Into his life walks the Devil in 
a Red Dress, Halle Berry, all legs and cheeky bones (and later topless 
sunbathing scene, for comic effect), who enlists Computer Guy at the re-
quest of Travolta's character, who we'll meet later.  (The flashback also 
details the fate of the *originally* contracted specialist, first detain-
ed at the airport by Customs and later taken into custody by the FBI.)

Director Dominic Sena-- helmer of last summer's non-action actioner GONE 
IN 60 SECONDS-- is all bronze-tinted hypercharge; his film is loud, seem-
ingly fast, and nearly always in your face.  Sena's also an ace at screw-
tightening, transforming even the minor-est scenes into fully functioning 
suspense sequences.  (See:  assassin, two-way mirror, and a target star-
ing into the barrel of a silencer.)  Alas, his *action* scenes are con-
siderably less-successful, lacking a smooth flow to balance out the ex-
plosions and Every Other Loud Thing.  (And while we're on said subject, I 
won't even *comment* on the realism of certain action scenes, like a car 
slash SUV chase with Chevy Suburbans that burst into flames at the drop 
of a hat.)  As for the BMIM (Big Man in Movie), Travolta plays another 
fun-having, cool-acting, ultra-confident super villain a la BROKEN ARROW, 
but with wacky hair instead of a clean-cut look.  (Forget those sweaty 
PULP FICTION locks, here the actor wears a Dutch Boy-style mop with a 
strange, super-thin goatee underneath; a slightly strip of facial hair 
that makes Travolta look like he just dribbled hot chocolate.)

The plot, of course, explains how the heist came together, what exactly 
is being stolen (like, uh, money), and the other players in mix.  e.g., 
Don Cheadle's FBI guy, Sam Sheppard's corrupt senator, etc.  There's am-
ple gloss, a sizeable chunk of violence, and way too many scenes showing 
computer screens, people staring at computer screens, or people *react-
ing* to computer screens, as Jackman's character does, looking like he 
found the Fountain of Youth upon first seeing the multi-monitor his new 
employer's home.  Guess you hafta be a techno-geek to get that last one. 
(Or a *male* techno-geek to full appreciate Jackman's character's "inter-
view," an outrageous test of concentration, uh, administered by an as-
sisting young lady.  Sign me up!)  Speaking of sex, there's a porno-movie 
subtext that's hinted at, but never poked at nor played for very sort of 
sleaze the film seems comfortable with.  Go figure.  And the film's Ri-
diculous Factor (RF) isn't nearly as high as expected.  At least on the 
technological or police-procedural front.  Instead, it's the *people* who 
are occasionally induce head-scratching, like, again, Jackman's character 
learning *nothing* about his boss's trustworthiness or lack thereof.

Alas, though this one runs a tight 99 minutes, SWORDFISH is yet another 
long sit.  Sure, slow-motion car-bomb explosions are cool, as are menac-
ing black "Hummers" cruising downtown L.A., or innovative uses for a bus 
and Sikorsky Sky Crane.  And Travolta's presence makes even the most idi-
otic of screen stories watchable.  (That is, BATTLEFIELD EARTH excepted.)  
But the relatively short film still isn't lean enough; there's too much  
extraneous footage-- Jackman's "tender moment" with his character's young 
daughter; an insipid comic exchange between an FBI chief and a field a-
gent updating him; the "air bus" escape weakly interrupted by a bout of 
bad wind; etc.  Thank goodness, then, for the choice of a flashback de-
vice, which at least insures *some* tension, both for the expected, big-
blowout finale-- which doesn't happen, mind you.  Everything just abrupt-
ly ends-- and the SPEED-like story hook of how exactly to diffuse a cou-
ple dozen human-carried bombs.  (Top secret "pulse weaponry," rendering 
the electronic detonator useless?  Remote detonation, killing both the 
hostages and hostage *takers*??)  Eh, eye-candy.  And it's over quickly.
Now if someone can just explain exactly *how* a big-death bank robbery 
both benefited Travolta's character and his national security interests?
Or, for that matter, how Clint Eastwood's genes got implanted into Jack-
man?  I mean, how else to explain the resemblance?  Cute USUAL SUSPECTS- 
like coda, too.  All that's missing is a slowly falling coffee cup...
(Rated "R"/99 min.)
Grade: C  

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to mike@legeros.com
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros