Movie Reviews: Swordfish




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     Warner Bros. (1 hr. 39 min.)
     The world's most dangerous spy is hired by a government agency to coerce a computer hacker recently released from prison to help steal $6 billion in unused government funds.
     John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle
Bottom Line:

David Noble Dandridge

   A few years ago, John Travolta starred in the hostage drama, Mad City. Travolta played a hostage taker who dies in the end. The new film, Swordfish, opens with Travolta giving a direct to camera monologue about the lack of realism in Hollywood movies, and how just once he'd like to see the bad guy get away in the end. He uses as an example of a movie whose ending he didn't like, Dog Day Afternoon, a hostage drama in which the hostage taker, Al Pacino, doesn't get away in the end. Just when we think that Travolta has broken character, and the fourth wall, the camera pulls back to reveal that he is surrounded by FBI agents and a SWAT team with guns trained on him. He defiantly walks through them and into the World Bank, dropping us smack dab in the middle of a hostage drama, this time directed by Dominic Sena (Gone in Sixty Seconds).
   Travolta is Gabriel, a techno-savvy, international terrorist so ruthless, he not only straps C-4 explosive to his hostages, he wraps the C-4 in metal ball-bearings so that if they try to escape they will not only be blown to smithereens, but the ball-bearings will scatter, perforating everything in their path-vehicles, buildings, bodies- like so much Swiss cheese. Gabriel needs to steal a few billion dollars from a government computer to fund his global counter-terrorist activities, so his beautiful assistant Ginger (Hale Berry, in an image changing , femme-fatale role) seduces ace cyber-criminal Stanley (Hugh Jackman, of The X-Men). Stanley doesn't know whether to do the deed, and use Gabriel's money to sue for custody of his daughter, or cooperate with over zealous FBI agent, Roberts (Don Cheadle) in order to stay out of prison.
   In the end, Swordfish is an action thriller of slightly above average intelligence, which makes it light years more intelligent than the recent crop of below average action flicks, such as Sena's last effort, Gone in Sixty Seconds. The themes of domestic terrorism, anti-government sympathy and not quite by-the-book FBI agents, elevates what would otherwise be standard material. The film benefits from its early June release not only because it is in between the blockbusters released on Memorial Day and 4th of July weekends, but also because it coincides with the media coverage of the Timothy McVeigh execution and alleged FBI cover-up. Travolta's Gabriel shares some of McVeigh's controversial views, but this slick talking, multi-millionaire is more Hugh Heffner and Arnon Milchan than McVeigh. Sena also gets plenty of miles out of an appealing cast, particularly Travolta and the always dependable Cheadle. Berry has never had this much on-screen edge, although her topless scene feels gratuitous and calculated, both by the actress herself as well as the filmmakers. (That's supposed to be a negative criticism, but I know I just sold more tickets.)
   As summer action movies get dumber and dumber, give Swordfish some credit for staying ahead of the game.



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