Recently, I’ve had a rare break from the multiplex. A variety of circumstances (led by a ripping case of burnout) prevented my entry into a movie theater for nearly two months, probably the longest stretch since I was something like 8-years-old. Lucky me, I’m back on the job in time for summer so that I can reviews gems, JUST LIKE THIS ONE.
It at least begins with a glimmer of promise. We open upon John Travolta as Gabriel, seated, drinking coffee in a cafe and calmly ranting to the audience. While director Dominic Sena shifts the camera around his star, big John becomes continually worked up about all of Hollywood’s bullshit, particularly when crapping out crime flicks. Now, this is a dangerous stand to take. While it catches the viewer’s attention, Barbarino’s lament reminded me of all the garbage he’s made in the last few years AND set the standard by which to judge the movie that just started. Do the results rise above the level of dreck he describes? Uh, no. Was there anything about this film I found memorable? Well, there was one thing. However, it’s not something you would likely guess, though you should go ahead and try.
Was it the opening action scene? ^ Almost, but not quite. After Travolta ends his little diatribe with a discussion of how “Dog Day Afternoon” could have been a better story, we realize that he’s actually talking to a pair of FBI agents, including Agent Roberts (Don Cheadle) and a very nervous looking Hugh Jackman as Stanley Jobson. Gabriel and Jobson then walk out through a very tense S.W.A.T team to the bank across the street where Gabriel’s men are holding a few dozen hostages. When the police succeed in pulling a quite panicked hostage away from supposed danger, that’s when the fun and the explosions begin.
Okay, was it the story? ^ Mmmm…, nope. The tale does jump back in time to four days prior to the standoff to reveal how our characters got to that point. Back then, you’d think our hero, Jobson, wouldn’t have anywhere to go but up. A few years before that he was flying high as a Wired magazine cover-boy and one of the best hackers in the world. Since then, a destructive hack into some FBI spy software cost him his life, his wife, his beloved daughter Holly, and his freedom. After an 18-month stint, his parole stipulates that he can’t so much as look at a computer. Of course when the mysterious Ginger comes around offering a quick job that would more than pay for the lawyers to regain custody of Holly, Stanley succumbs to the temptation. The uber-hacker reluctantly follows Ginger down the rabbit-hole for tea with the Mad Hatter.
Is it the big, fiendish plot of the bad guy? ^ Nuh-uh. Despite Travolta’s wannabe-Bond villain performance, the actual grand plan is actually fairly simple and straightforward. I won’t spoil it but in light of the shenanigans perpetrated by Oliver North and his ultra-right-wing ilk, such a scheme isn’t even that farfetched.
Is it the look of the film? ^ Oh hell no. The trailers tout this new feature, ‘from the producer of The Matrix,’ the generally entertaining Joel Silver. What they don’t pimp is the fact this extravaganza is also from the director of last year’s remake of Gone In 60 Seconds and “Kalifornia”. The over-processed, over-color saturated visual style is typical of half the hacks currently infesting MTV and pseudo-trendy commercials with their efforts. You’d think after the time these guys probably spent studying David Fincher’s movies, they could have found a little more to swipe. Whatever.
Let’s not forget we’re also treated to the star of Battlefield: Earth and The General’s Daughter. So much to answer for.
Was it…. Halle Berry’s BOOBS? ^ No, but glad you brought ’em up. By now most of the movie-going public should be aware of one of the crassest promotional stunts I’ve heard of in a while. Reportedly, Berry was paid $500,000 to show her breasts in the film. Yes, that’s $250,000 per boob. Does the shot turned out to be gratuitous? Hell, yes. Basically, Jackman walks out the back door of a house to Berry lounging by the pool. At that point the audience is soon treated with a well-lit medium shot of the actress and all her natural-born hootie splendor. You definitely get the feeling that much effort was made to pose and light Berry to show off her girls for maximum impact. Sure it’s crass, but if you bought something really expensive, wouldn’t you want to present it to others for the best possible effect? They are quite lovely, but for $8.50 you could rent much more effective spanker material.
Alrighty then, what the hell was it? ^ It was a CAR. While I was sitting there in the theatre fighting boredom during a car chase, I noticed the bad guy was at least driving a nice looking car. Then I realized I had seen such a fine piece of machinery before. It wasn’t just any sports car, it was MY dream car. The boy in the bubble was driving a TVR (a Tuscan model, to be precise). Haven’t heard of them? Then you’re probably not British. Over in England TVR’s are just about the most beautiful and fastest domestic high-performance sports car around. Unfortunately, these rolling art pieces are neither marketed nor currently approved for use in the US. You can check out the official site for the detail stuff, but the real reason I want one is that nearly all of their models look like fuckin’ BATMOBILES. Or, at least, what the Batmobile would look like as something you could actual operate (not like that hideous neon parade float from the Schumacher atrocities). Come to think of it, a TVR is what James Bond should be driving, not that German piece of crap (guess which one) that bought it’s way into the franchise. Not very patriotic, was it?
Well, there ya go. Maybe another round on the script or inspired direction could have done something with this. Right now you’re looking at some explosions, a lot of techno, two X-Men, and a Sweat-hog. Oh, yeah, and a glimpse at a very cool car. Eh. “Swordfish” isn’t offensive or anything, just a waste of effort. Unless you’re willing to shell out $4-5 bucks to see each of Berry’s little friends, you’re better off re-watching that “Matrix” DVD for the 28th time or waiting for that Bond-athon to come back on TBS. Enjoy.