Friday, April 6, 2012

"Swordfish" (2001)

Starring Hugh Jackman, John Travolta and Halle Berry
Written by Skip Woods
Directed by Dominic Sena
Rated R - Violence, nudity, drug use, sex, language
Running Time: 99 Minutes

Oh, hackers... One day, Hollywood will figure out how to make what you do not look completely ridiculous.

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a former hacker who was caught by the FBI and as part of his sentence is never allowed to touch a computer again.  He works a crappy job hoping to one day get back custody of his young daughter Holly (Camryn Grimes) from her strung out, porn-star mother Melissa (Drea de Matteo).  One day, he's approached by a mysterious woman named Ginger (Halle Berry) with a job offer.  Promising him a hundred thousand dollars just to meet her employer, Ginger convinces Stanley to meet with the mysterious and dangerous Gabriel Shear (John Travolta).

Gabriel needs a hacker of the highest calibre to help him steal $9.5 billion in illegal funds from the United States government.  With this money, he tells Stanley, he will commit America to a war on terror the likes of which the world has never seen.  But hot on Gabriel's trail is FBI agent JT Roberts (Don Cheadle), the man who years earlier caught Stanley.

Trying to make enough money to save his daughter from a life of drugs and porn and keep himself out of jail, Stanley agrees to do the job for Gabriel, settling on a fee of $10 million.  But Stanley doesn't know who he can trust - not Ginger, who claims to be a DEA agent; not Roberts, who will likely send him back to jail; and certainly not Gabriel, who would just as soon kill him as soon as the job is finished.

And when Gabriel proves himself to be less a patriot and more a sadistic murderer, Stanley realizes he's in far, far over his head with no way out.

"Swordfish" is a bad movie.  The script is an absurd mishmash of weird crap that happens set to obnoxious music and sickly green and orange color schemes.  The acting is horrific.  The movie starts, oh-so-ironically with Travolta talking about how most Hollywood movies are unrealistic trash... which of course, "Swordfish" is to a T.

There was big hooplah surrounding "Swordfish" when it was released, as this was the first time Halle Berry would appear topless on screen.  Yeah, alright, she's a very attractive woman with lovely breastacles... but the scene in which this occurs is pointlessly stupid.  The scene is literally her lying there naked while Hugh Jackman awkwardly asks to borrow her car.  Seriously.

The scenes where Stanley gets to show off his hacking prowess are just as idiotic, but none more so than the initial job interview where he's tasked with hacking into a US government protected network while getting a blowjob and a gun pointed at his head.  The other scenes where Stanley performs his feats of computer strength are mostly just music video style montages of him typing furiously, spinning around in his chair and talking to himself.  Look, the problem is that hacking is really fucking boring.  It takes a long time, and it just involves someone sitting at a computer.  So how do you make that interesting to an audience watching an action movie?  You really can't, but director Sena tries his damnedest and it's a total failure.  Jackman looks like a fool, and the audience just wants it to be over.

If there's a saving grace to "Swordfish" it's that some of the action sequences aren't terrible.  Coming on the heels of "The Matrix," "Swordfish" features an elaborate "bullet-time" explosion that goes in and out of buildings, and around a large area about half a city block that's pretty impressive.  There are the requisite fist fights and gunshots and chases through the rest of the film before the whole thing goes totally off the rails at the climax.  The end of the film features a chase wherein a bus (painted like a circuit board - ugh) is lifted off the streets by a cargo helicopter.

"Swordfish" is totally ridiculous from start to finish.  It's exactly the kind of overblown Hollywood bullshit that Travolta's character decries at the beginning.