1. Start with a number of great Hollywood actors.
2. Roll them up in gorgeous cinematography and allow two hours of film.
3. Then add a bloated and contrived plot and a few dashes of cliche.
4. Throw in bizarre car chases and gunfights.
5. Allow five minutes for a laughable twist ending.
You've just read the recipe for the movie Swordfish.
Swordfish, a movie that starts off promising then quickly stays in the oven too long for its own good,questions how far a distrustful film can go. An audience can only suspend their disbelief for so much and so long when watching a movie. If the story gets too preposterous than the film won't take. I've seen countless movies where it asks a lot for the audience to logically jump on board, but none more so utterly absurd than Swordfish. Despite a great cast with Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, and the always fun to watch John Travolta, Swordfish is bogged down by too many ridiculous ideas to appear as a competently made movie. While the recipe is there, there's just too many extra ingredients being thrown around to make a tasty dish.
Hugh Jackman is a former hacker trying to turn his life around until he is visited by Halle Berry who convinces him to get back into the game. She brings him to John Travolta, the playboy, meat-eating, super assassin/government agent, who asks Jackman to create a virus in order to rob an old CIA account. Jackman obliges, needing money to help him get his daughter back from his druggie ex-wife. Somewhere Don Cheadle is thrown into the mix as a cop trying to take down Travolta and one action scene is thrown around after another. There are plenty of shootouts, giant explosions, a flying bus, plus double crosses and even triple crosses to keep the audience involved. While the movie provides some good eye candy in it's stars and stunts, it becomes completely distasteful thanks to it's awkward plot and confusion on where to take it.
Swordfish is not a complicated movie to understand, it just thinks it's too complicated for it's own good. There are twists and turns which beg for the audience to gasp and whoop, but they are so unbelievable and come in such high-octane bursts that they lose all impact. One moment Halle Berry is a criminal, the next moment she is a DEA agent, then she's a government agent pretending to be DEA pretending to be a criminal. It all gets quite chaotic and muddled without a precise goal or message for the viewer to grasp on to. It has fleeting moments where it's trying to make a point about the repercussions of terrorism, but they are quickly abandoned for mindless action scenes.
The cast do what they can here, but it's not much. Jackman, Berry and even Cheadle are medicore at best, but it's more from of lack of direction and a very weak script than from their acting chops. We've seen all these actors in Academy nominated roles, there's just nothing for them to sink their teeth into here. The only real standout is Travolta's character. The actor is always at his best when portraying a villain or anti-hero; he's having so much fun playing a psychotic bad-ass it's hard not to have fun with him.
The direction here by Dominic Sena is nothing radically different. He moves through the movie in a series of close-ups and quick cuts that are standard for any highly glossed action/thriller. I will say the cinematography by Paul Cameron is quite on point. Swordfish is wrapped in a palette of bright, vibrant colors that perfectly capture the Los Angeles lifestyle.
Thanks to Travolta's performance and Cameron's lighting, Swordfish has a couple nice additives, but not enough to save the whole meal. In the end this quick paced thriller is a movie trying too many things at one time to know exactly where it stands. It is somewhere between a gripping action movie like Speed, a character study of bank robbers like Heat, and a flurry of generic thrillers about hacking and conspiracy theories.
Swordfish Official Trailer
Recommended if you like Broken Arrow, Speed, a dumb downed version of Dog Day Afternoon
Only explosions, bullets, fast cars and hot women allowed
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