Retro Review: Swordfish

Hugh Jackman, John Travolta, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle star in a cyber-thriller about the battle of wits between a hacker and a super-spy.

Can this all-star cast reawaken Travolta’s fading career? Or is it best to put this pony out to pasture?

Hugh Jackman is the central figure of this thriller. Jackman plays Stanley Jobson, a super-hacker who has just served 18-months in prison for hacking into top-secret FBI surveillance files. Stanley gets quite nervous when he is approached by the lovely Ginger (Halle Berry).

Ginger wants Stanley to come with her to meet her boss who has a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. This opportunity may also secure the future of Stanley’s estranged daughter, Holly.

Holly is in the custody of her alcoholic mother who has just got married to a rich porn king.

There is nothing in the world that Stanley wants more than to be with his daughter so he agrees to go with Ginger.

Ginger takes Stanley to visit her boss, the mysterious Gabriel Shear (John Travolta). What does Stanley have to do to win his daughter? What is Shear’s main objective? Does Ginger have her own objective?

That is stage of the new thriller Swordfish that seems to be your typical hacker-in-trouble action picture. A lot of the intrigue and hacker subplots reminded me of the short-lived UPN series “Level 9”. Except here the action and camera work was much more theatrical release material. I was sad to see “Level 9” disappear into television oblivion and the memory of that good show really helped pull me into this film.

The opening sequence that sets up the film is utterly mind-blowing and a huge cinematic achievement. This scene was so incredible that I found the rest of the film was always trying to live up to it. The film tried to bring in some thrills like Halle Berry baring all and a bus flying between the skyscrapers of Los Angeles but the first scene is always imprinted in the front of your mind as the picture continues.

This film tried so hard to be a Jerry Bruckheimer film and it definitely succeeded. The darkened mystique of a Bruckheimer film, an alumni director, a lot of explosions and an escape from the fundamentals of reality are all staples of the Bruckheimer formula. Swordfish fits firmly into that mold. I guess the formula isn’t too hard to emulate after all.

Hugh Jackman is wonderful as always. He is the latest Australian find and he doesn’t disappoint. Another actor in this film who is always great is Don Cheadle and he also doesn’t disappoint.

Travolta, personally, has been stale since post “Civil Action” and he seems to resort back to his evil “Broken Arrow” persona for this latest acting gig.

He smirks, saunters and pushes his hair back as he tries to show a good performance. But sometimes I wonder if he is acting or is he an evil clone who has dispersed with the real good actor named John Travolta.

Aside from the charisma of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry is the pictures stand-out. She uses her beauty to find the innocence in Ginger and then without any real strain resorts to Ginger’s desperation. That is brilliant.

As for her much talked about nude scene, I thought her in a string bikini would have sufficed. However I am male, so I am not complaining all that much. Berry was that character and her charisma alone could have pulled off that scene.

My problems with Swordfish lie mainly in the “semi-trailer truck” plot holes that are littered throughout this film. There are many and that is kind of unnerving for a suspense thriller. I also found that the film’s ending left me quite hollow. Where was the main villain vs. hero square off? Like a lot of Hollywood films this summer, here is another ending that needed to be rewritten.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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