[box cover]

Swordfish

Yes, John Travolta's wearing that haircut in Swordfish — the same one he sported as Vincent Vega in Quentin Taratino's densely woven Pulp Fiction. Regrettably, it's one of many examples where this Dominic Sena cybertech-thriller looks as if it's being innovative, but instead is merely derivative. Travolta stars as Gabriel Shear, an elusive criminal who — along with femme fatale Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry) — lures legendary computer hacker and ex-con Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) to tap into a dormant U.S. government slush-fund that has been churning interest for decades, to the point where it's now a $9.5 billion payday. Gabriel plans to spread the cash across several numbered accounts, but in order to access it he needs Stanely, one of the few hackers alive who can break through Department of Defense security. But Stanley will take some convincing — especially with FBI agent J. T. Roberts (Don Cheadle) tracking his every move. Swordfish's staccato tagline, "Log on, hack in, go anywhere, steal everything," might as well be the famous Timothy Leary quote that inspired it, because the film requires little more from the viewer than to tune in, turn on, and drop out. All of the elements that should be engaging instead somehow linger in a fog of familiarity, including a set-up similar to William Gibson's seminal 1984 sci-fi novel Neuromancer, plot twists and a final revelation that are a bit banal in the wake of The Usual Suspects, and Travolta playing the sort of cackling, scene-chewing villain that was fine in Face/Off but falls rather flat here. Despite the glitz and the artillery, there are really just three money-shots in Swordfish: a 360-degree "bullet-time" explosion in the opening moments, Halle Berry's topless scene, and the final sequence as a military helicopter ferries a large bus among the skyscrapers of Los Angeles. Tack on a car-chase with Travolta blasting away John Woo style, a double-dealing U.S. Senator (Sam Shepard), and a bit of peril involving Stanely's young daughter, and it's an action film made not by committee, but cookie-cutters. Ironically, the only aspect of Swordfish that really furrows into solid ground is its approach to international terrorism — but as the film is a product of America prior to 9-11-01, such plot-points are coincidental, prescient, or just a little unsettling. Warner's DVD release of Swordfish offers the film in a crisp anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a commentary with director Sena, a 15-minute HBO "First Look" featurette, a look at the special effects, two alternate endings with commentary from Sena, the theatrical trailer, and DVD-ROM features. Snap-case.
—JJB



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