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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Swordfish

Starring: John Travolta, Halle Berry
Director: Dominic Sena
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Hugh Jackman, Vinnie Jones, Don Cheadle, Drea de Matteo

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

One of the strategies used today by Israelis, who have been inundated by terrorist attacks, is to learn the location of high-ranking officials in organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, fly over their limos in choppers, and fire missiles at the cars, eliminating the leaders (hopefully without loss of nearby civilian life). This is similar to what the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency did in the old days--eliminating perceived enemies by assassinating leaders. The CIA more or less admitted its role in taking out Guatemalan leader Arbenz, whom the U.S. perceived to be pro-Communist. Is this type of action justified? While you're pondering the ethics of assassinating enemies, you may wonder what all of this has to do with Dominic Sena's explosive picture, "Swordfish," which features some of John Travolta's most convincing action roles and almost redeems his guise in last year's "Battlefield Earth." We can't really discuss the relationship of these metaphysical questions without giving away the store, but despite the hackneyed car chases, chopper scenarios, and the usual mayhem with explosives strapped to hostages, Skip Woods's clever script lifts "Swordfish" well above the usual action-adventure genre. While WBAI critic Mike Sargent rhapsodizes, "If it were any hotter you'd burst into flames," I prefer to give appropriate accolades to the imaginative script--which features a couple of interesting twists ending with a slam-bang revelation that provides the audience with an excuse to exhale "a-ha!"

The story opens on the final day of a bank heist, then retraces its steps to highlight that handsome Aussie Hugh Jackman in the role of A-1 computer hacker Stanley, out of jail for entering secret government files with the caveat that he must not touch the keys to a computer again. When the alluring Ginger (Halle Berry) enters his disheveled trailer in the middle of nowhere to offer a deal he cannot refuse, he winds up in the caper of his life with debonair multi-millionaire Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), who impresses Stanley with his need to make much more money--which he can do if Stanley would hack into some cool bank accounts.

The extra million dollars that Warner Bros. paid to Halle Berry simply to expose her breasts for eight seconds mocks all the strippers throughout the United States who probably could not make that kind of money after ten-year careers spinning around the brass poles, but that sum in turn fades when compared to the nine billion dollars that Stanley is commissioned to find for Gabriel--which could keep Stanley in Dell computers for several lifetimes and provide Gabriel with...what? Ah, that's the 9-billion dollar question that provides director Dominic Sena with a prize picture. The audience, given clues throughout, must wonder: is Ginger really working for the Drug Enforcement Administration or is she really Gabriel's numero uno? Most of all, is Gabriel a good guy working for the interests of the U.S. government despite being pursued avidly by Special Agent A.D. Roberts (Don Cheadle)? Or is he a villain interested principally in stashing billions into his numbered accounts around the world so that he can sail the Mediterranean on a yacht that would make Ari Onassis' boat pale?

The babes look like Bond girls and the women in the audience can't do better, looks-wise, than to gape at Mr. Jackman, who resembles a young Robert Redford. Dominic Sena still pushes the action-ad envelope as he did with last year's turkey, "Gone in 60 Seconds," but thanks to the machinations of Skip Woods screenplay he's redeemed himself along with Mr. Travolta. The opening scene, a philosophic chat by Travola about the nature of Hollywood, is a monologue worthy of the arthouse stage of Manhattan's Manhattan Theatre Club. Good show all around.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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