Swordfish starts off with a helluva wallop. John Travolta opens with a monologue about why “Hollywood is full of shit,” specifically the problems with Dog Day Afternoon and what a real criminal with hostages could have done. When the conversation ends and Travolta finishes his coffee, he stands up, thanks his gentlemen, and then we quickly discover Travolta is holding hostages in a bank each strapped with powerful explosives. During some miscommunication and arrogance from the FBI brass (as always) snipers take out one of Travolta’s baddies and try and whisk away a hostage. As they try and rush her out in slow motion the pounds of C4 strapped to her chest detonate and a monumental explosion erupts. But as it slowly does the camera whips around in a circle, even entering various buildings, to give a full picture of the destructive wave of the explosion. The effect is magnificent and wonderfully pulled off. The beginning ten or so minutes really wake you up and keep your eyes open.
A few days prior to this incident is where the story then sets off to fill in. Gabriel Shear (Travolta) is a powerful man with the world at his fingertips. He sends out his seductive siren Ginger (Halle Berry) to recruit the recently released Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) for a special mission. Stanley is a hacking genius and has been ordered to stay clear of any computer as well as from his young daughter. Gabriel’s offer comes with a cash advance just for a meeting that is too good to pass up. After an initiation of Stanley’s skills he is set up to create a super virus that will drain the CIA of billions of dollars in unused and unknown funds. All the while FBI agent A.D. Roberts (Don Cheadle) is on the trail of Gabriel the super spy and trying to coerce Stanley into helping him bring the superman crashing.
The script is nothing new. It is complete with the familiar double crossings and surprise affiliations to render out the duration of our film. Some moments are just over-the-top stupid, like Jackman’s initiation test which requires him to break a computer code whilst a gun is pressed to his head and a blonde gives him a blowjob. Stanley has a boozing ex-wife now remarried to a porn king with custody of his daughter, and he doesn’t think he can win because he was in prison?
Dominic Sena gave us the driving on empty Gone in 60 Seconds last summer. Sena seems to really love florescent lighting when it comes to his films. The actors are bathed in bevy of bright greens and oranges for two hours. Sena delivers a film that pretty much has an idea its nothing but fast food, and it seem to not let something like that drag it down but actually help improve itself. It’s like Wild Things in the aspect it knows it’s just slick trash but damn if it isn’t going to be a fun ride.
Swordfish has been made critic proof. One could complain about the plot contrivances and the pat ending, but you can always go back to Travolta’s opening dissertation. Certain revelations occur in the film that will make you question who really is the bad guy in the end. The makers of Swordfish have gone about and made their action flick critic proof.
A disappointment is that there really is only three action sequences in the entire movie. I will say this now and may it be heard clear – TYPING IS NOT EXCITING! Watching someone type fast at a keyboard is never entertaining. Do not build an action movie around typing. If you do you might as well have action while people play Turbo Pong.
The acting is irrelevant, though Jackman is a winning face and actor. Travolta looks like the lower half of his face has freakishly widened. Much has been made about Halle Berry going topless for the movie – well it lasts about four seconds. The scene involves Jackman asking her where Travolta has gone while she sits outside reading a book. She flips the book over to reveal her breasts and basically the film uses it for Jackman to have a comic reaction. This was not necessary at all. This was entirely gratuitous and used for comic effect for God’s sake. But the movie is unabashedly about sleek violence and sex, so it can be forgiven.
Swordfish is the right kind of mindless action for the summer. It keeps you awake and engaged. And I’d rather see this eighty times again before seeing Tomb Raider one more time.
Nate’s Grade: B-