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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

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Okay, admit it. Sometimes movies are so awful, so over-the-top ridiculous that they're good and a lot of fun to laugh at. SWORDFISH, directed by Dominic Sena (GONE IN 60 SECONDS) and starring John Travolta, is one such film. And unlike Travolta's magnum opus of badness, BATTLEFIELD EARTH, SWORDFISH has so few pretensions that it invites you to laugh along with the script rather like the bouncing ball of music sing-alongs.

Since the film's buzz has stemmed mainly from Halle Berry's infamous naked breast scene, perhaps I should start with the warning that the scene is about as exciting as a naked bust in an art museum. She shows them off briefly and rather nonchalantly as she reads. A later scene in which she is in bra and panties, however, will not disappoint those who take in the movie solely for the titillation factor.

The story opens with a long, awkward monologue by Gabriel Shear (Travolta) about the movies. During his soliloquy the camera goes in and out of focus so many times that your head will feel like it may explode. Speaking of explosions, things that go boom in SWORDFISH don't just ignite, they go close to thermonuclear.

SWORDFISH is the sort of movie that relishes its glorification of stupidity. As a hostage wired with remote control bombs walks around, mad bomber Gabriel warns the police to stay away. The agent in charge, A.D. Roberts (Don Cheadle), orders the cops to do what the bomber with the finger on the remote control says. Do they? Of course, not. They give the hostage the biggest bear hug this side of a therapy support group.

Gabriel is a mysterious criminal who lives a life that would make Hugh Hefner in his prime jealous. "He lives in a world beyond your world," we are told. "What others only fantasize about, he does."

Gabriel pays way more than minimum wage to the hackers that he uses to crack the world's electronic banking systems. Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman, X-MEN), whom the FBI labeled as the most dangerous hacker in America, is brought in by Gabriel for the ultimate test, cracking super secure government computers while having oral sex. Stan, who has a gun to his head, must do this, or he will be gone in 60 seconds. Of course, having been named Wired Magazine's "Man Of The Year" in 1996, Stan finishes just in time.

The script by Skip Woods is quite educational. We learn that 128-bit encryption is pretty secure stuff unless someone with Stan's skills, who kind of intuits his ways through the decoding, is trying to break it. But, 512-bit is really tough stuff. And nobody is up to 1024-bit. Are you taking notes?

You've probably always wondered exactly how superstar programmers work. Well, SWORDFISH shows that to do world-class hacking, you need nine monitors. Standing like a rock musician playing a keyboard, Stan, a triple espresso man, bounces around while writing his code, which appears on multiple screens as both lines of text and spinning 3D models.

In a movie this silly, it's hard to pick a favorite moment. For me, it occurs after Gabriel stands up in his fast, expensive sports convertible to simultaneously shoot down sleek, black sport-utes on both sides. After he stops his car, he pulls a huge machine gun out of his trunk and starts blasting away like he is the last man standing at the Alamo. Others, however, may prefer the film's way, way over-the-top finale. Actually, the more I think about it, the story's ludicrous big secret may be the biggest hoot of all.

SWORDFISH runs a fast 1:37. It is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, June 8, 2001. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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