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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Retro Review: Swordfish (2001)

Cast: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones, Sam Shepard 
Genre: Action Crime Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $147 million

Plot: A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell led by Gabriel Shear wants the money to help finance their war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away. Gabriel brings in the convicted hacker, Stanley Jobson to help him

'A Fish That Needs Gutting'

It's a coincidence that Travolta's character rants about Hollywood making and churning out crappy and bad movies and their lack of realism during the opening of the movie when he utters, ''the problem with Hollywood is that it produces s**t. Unremarkable, unbelievable s**t'', because that is precisely what this movie is, - kind of and it shoots itself in the foot. Swordfish has the trappings and style that echoes a John Woo Hong Kong effort that is also part- Michael Mann - but for one thing: nothing characters, unengaging story, sketchy characterisations, or be it non-existent personalities. 

Stanley (Hugh Jackman) is a hacker who finds himself working for a corrupt government agent, Gabriel (John Travolta). Stanley is persuaded by Ginger (Halle Berry), to get in on Gabriel's act of accepting $10 million and hacking into a government database to drain billions, with Stanley being pursued by the FBI.

It is comparable to Gone In Sixty Seconds, insofar as to its tone & feel that masks underneath that high gloss aesthetic and the effects are overdone. Travolta, yet again, indulges in and reenacts the same bad guy routine as in Face/Off and Broken Arrow as his character borders on insanity, Jackman's character opens up playing golf, shirtless with a towel covering up the lower half of his body, with scantily- clad Halle Berry as the semi-erotic, fan service-y scenes are thrown in for no other reason but to grab one's attention. Yet as a film itself, it has no interest in carving out an overly decent story and with the audience resonating with the characters, but piles on the mind-numbing -yet unspectacular violence and action. Jackman and Berry do what they can, but they coast through the banal material with below-par performances. Jackman, himself, looks uncomfortable in his role. 

Sword Fish turns out to be a smug & nihilistic affair that tries to be smart but ends up being asinine and with ineffective secondary characters including Stanley's estranged wife: an unlikeable, stuck-up witch, who is married to a wealthy porn mogul. It tries to offer something new, distinct that hadn't been attempted before, in contrast to the millions of other Hollywood big-budget blockbuster action affairs of the 1990s and 2000s, but the action feels samey and the implied suspense fails to come to life and it sort of meanders on, and when it does, one will probably lose interest. The political backstory to the whole thing and the subplot with Stanley's daughter are some things I could have done without.   

The film dissolves into a series of scenes that exist out of nowhere, whereby the characters' motivations aren't made clear with car chases, shootouts and Berry's breasts are on view through this relentlessly empty, mediocre and shallow action thriller. When it all comes together, it is executed in such a way, it becomes a little too ambitious and silly for its own good. 

Produced by Joel Silver, this is one of his weakest efforts and even with the billed names of John Travolta, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry, they all bereft of onscreen chemistry and any real affinity as a cast. Everyone is practically wasted in their roles, but with a better screenplay helmed by Skip Woods who gave us the terrible efforts of Hitman, Sabotage with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The A-Team & X-Men Origins: Wolverine - which weren't well-received themselves-, it would have elevated their performances. The rivalry between Stanley and Gabriel never really convinces. After Swordfish, director Dominic Shea retreated into the wilderness for 8 years. 

Final Verdict:

Just as worse and over two decades later, after initially enjoying this on its initial release in 2001, Swordfish has become unexceptional, dated, is vapid and not gripping enough.   


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