A scene from 'Swordfish'
Courtesy Photo
* star 97 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, June 8, 2001
Directed by Dominic Sena

Starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones, Carmyn Grimes, Sam Shepard, Zach Grenier

This film received a dishonorable mention on the Worst of 2001 list.


Shootouts and uber-stunts just aren't the same on the small screen, and god knows this movie hasn't anything else to offer.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10.30.2001


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Explosions, breasts, Travolta chewing scenery are all director cares about in plotless 'Swordfish'

By Rob Blackwelder

Director Dominic Sena seems to fancy himself some kind of John Woo Jr. But John Woo ("The Killer," "Hard Boiled" and more recently "Face/Off" and "M:I-2") is an action genius who has a gift for turning gun battles into ballet and explosions into art.

Sena ("Gone in 60 Seconds") couldn't care less about art as long as his computer-enhanced mega-blasts are as big, as orange, as slow-motion and as debris-filled as possible. And if he can throw in an innocent hostage being blown apart, so much the better.

After beginning with an ironic but incredibly smug speech by film buff bad guy John Travolta about how Hollywood makes such crappy movies, the opening sequence of "Swordfish" fulfills all Sena's high-gloss, low-brow requirements -- pretty much proving Travolta's point.

You want plot? Forget about it. Sena did. All he offers in this mind-numbing picture is some vague rubbish about a clandestine government anti-terrorist operation from which Travolta has apparently gone rogue (just like he did in Woo's "Broken Arrow"). Passing mention is made of eye-for-an-eye justice for international terrorists, but why bother with an explanation of motives when Travolta can fire two machine guns out of the top of a convertible during an 100-mph chase?

You want plausible characters? Not a chance. Hunky new matinee idol Hugh Jackman ("Someone Like You," "X-Men") is supposed to be the world's most dangerous hacker. Yeah, tell me another one. He's on parole and not allowed to touch computers, so he lives in a beat up trailer in the Texas desert, doesn't shave and hits golf balls off his roof wearing nothing but a towel.

That is until Halle Berry recruits him to work for Travolta. He'll get $10 million to help electronically steal $9 billion from the government. With his share he plans to hire a good lawyer so he can fight a restraining order against him seeing his 10-year-old daughter. Nevermind what he must have done to get court-ordered away from her in the first place. If you wonder about things like that, you're way, way too smart for this movie. Apparently it's all the fault of his boozehound porn actress ex-wife who now has custody. Oooo, don't you just hate her?

"Swordfish" is all about simplistic characters, nonsensical plot and uber-stunts, like a bus full of hostages, taken by Travolta, hanging from a helicopter over downtown Los Angeles. Visually the movie is slicker than Teflon -- gorgeous actors, expensive clothes, fast customized cars and lots of stuff going ka-plewy. John Travolta, who has become a $20 million whore, earns his money chewing up scenery like a wood chipper -- that is when he's not busy foolishly explaining his diabolical plan to the hero and leaving rocket launchers lying around to be used against him.

But if you're interested in anything even slightly beyond such completely hollow smoke and mirrors, and beyond Halle Berry showing the world her breasts (the actress got paid an extra $500,000 for her gratuitous nudity), then this isn't the movie for you.

I don't mind checking my brain at the door, but I expect the director to make it worth my while. Otherwise I'm going to start asking questions about the enormous holes in the plot.

Suffice it to say that if John Woo were in a coma after a botched full frontal lobotomy, he could still make a better action movie than "Swordfish."

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