When the DEA shut down its dummy corporation operation codenamed SWORDFISH in 1986, they had generated $400 million which they let sit around; fifteen years of compound interest has swelled it to $9.5 billion. A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, headed by the duplicitious and suave Gabriel Shear, wants the money to help finance their raise-the-stakes vengeance war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away behind super-encryption. He brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson, who only wants to see his daughter Holly again but can't afford the legal fees, to slice into the government mainframes and get the money.
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 convicted hacker Stanley Jobson to help him.
`Swordfish' is a film most likely made by rich action movie fans for not-so-rich action movie fans. `Swordfish' features all the right elements of a terrific action film cutting-edge special effects, jaw-dropping car chases, lots o' blazing guns, gorgeous babes, and tense races against time that invariably involve a countdown from a digital clock. However, for whatever reason, when added together these elements don't add up to a particularly good overall movie. `Swordfish' contains a lot of undeniably great scenes, but as an overall movie . . . it's okay. Not exactly a dog, but not exactly good, either.
The convoluted plot of `Swordfish' boils down to this: Mystery man Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) and his drop-dead gorgeous sidekick Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry) recruit former computer whiz Stan Jobson (Hugh Jackman) to break into a top secret government computer in order to access files on something called `Operation: Swordfish'. FBI Agent A.D. Roberts (Don Cheadle), who has been keeping tabs on Stan's activities, becomes aware of the mysterious Gabriel's plans and begins a dogged attempt to stop him. Throughout all this, hints about Gabriel's `true' identity keep cropping up, leaving his mercenary programmer Stan to keep wondering who he's really working for: maybe a criminal mastermind, maybe a corrupt government agent or perhaps something worse.
The opening of `Swordfish' is one of the best opening scenes of any action movie ever filmed: the set-up is brilliant (not to mention wicked cool), the dialogue crackles with razor-sharp wit, the use of freeze-motion photography is spectacular, and it pulls no punches whatsoever. It even makes some subtle and not-so-subtle references to the Al Pacino film `Dog Day Afternoon', which is so eerily appropriate that it's perfect (although I found myself wondering how many people watching the film would even have heard of `Dog Day Afternoon', let alone know what it was about). It's so high-energy, you get the feeling you're in for one of the best action films of all time. Trouble is, the rest of the film can't even remotely sustain such energy, so `Swordfish' begins to quickly slide downwards into pure mediocrity. It never hits the point where it becomes unwatchably bad, but it never reaches the heights of the opening scenes again, either.
As far the overall story itself . . . well, if you take each individual scene and watch them on all on their own merits, they're all pretty cool. (Note: `cool' doesn't always mean `good', but it usually means `fun'). String them all together and watch them all at once, though, and it becomes painful how little sense `Swordfish' makes. What's said and done in one scene blatantly contradicts the story and plot in another scene, plot threads are arbitrarily dropped and forgotten, critical information explaining parts of the story seems to be pulled from out of nowhere when characters are stuck in a jam . . . there's no sense of cohesion to the film at all. It's as though the writers of this film had a brainstorming meeting, wrote down as many cool ideas for an action film as they could think of, and then crammed every single one of those ideas into the script without giving the slightest amount of thought as to whether or not those ideas would actually work together in the same film. `Swordfish' is a mishmash of some cool images and some very cool dialogue that fail to ultimately blend together into a cool film. (And a side rant regarding the storyline there's a whole subplot involving Hugh Jackman's character Stan and his fight to get custody of his daughter that's utterly ludicrous and unnecessary to the story. Memo to the scriptwriters it doesn't matter if Stan's a convicted white-collar criminal; there's no way a judge would let the kid's mother have sole custody rights if the mother is a known porn star making porn movies in the house where the kid is supposed to live!!!! Talk about beyond dumb . . .)
Dominic Sena does a decent job with the direction of the film `Swordfish' moves along with the cheerful breakneck pace of a runaway rollercoaster but he doesn't do anything to particularly distinguish himself from the rest of the Bruckheimer pack (Michael Bay, Simon West, et al.) There's nothing wrong with this; it just would've been neat to see what `Swordfish' would've been like if directed by someone bring a little extra to the table. The effects, the pacing, and the choice of some of the shots are undeniably cool, though, so it's safe to say that Sena has most likely entrenched himself as a top action director for some time with `Swordfish'.
The characters? Travolta's in his element as Gabriel Shear the man's a shadow (figuratively, anyway) of what he used to be, but if you need someone to play a hip, arrogant, pop-culture spewing villain, Travolta's your man. The guy chews the scenery with relish as the Machiavellian Gabriel; he's clearly in his element in this film and loving every second of it. In a way, it's a shame I think John Travolta is capable of much better than this but he gives the part of Gabriel in `Swordfish' everything it needs and then some. Hugh Jackman is good, if not exactly great, as Stan the hacker; the deficiencies of his part, though, seem to be more the script than Jackman himself. Halle Berry . . . Wow. With a capital W. The part of Ginger Knowles doesn't exactly call for Oscar-winning talent, but it does call for an amazingly beautiful woman who knows how to show off her assets, and Ms. Berry does exactly what the part requires to perfection. The only disappointment to the cast is Don Cheadle, and it's not that he does a bad job, it's just that he's so obscenely talented compared to the rest of the cast and the weak script he's forced to work with, it's laughable. Cheadle's simply too good for the part of A.D. Roberts. He's clearly slumming in this movie; the producers of `Swordfish' almost would've been better off with a much less talented actor playing Don Cheadle's part. Every scene that Cheadle's in, he simply outshines every other actor to the point where it's embarrassing.
Is `Swordfish' great? Certainly not. Does it have some a few moments? Yes, with emphasis on `a few'. For that reason alone, it's probably worth renting . . . but only if you're in the mood for forgettable, mindless fun. Grade: C/C+ I have seen this movie countless times. I cannot understand how people are so negative about this movie. The acting is superb, from John Travolta (Gabriel) to Don Cheadle (Agent Roberts), the performances of all in between is top notch. Hugh Jackman (Stanley) performed brilliantly. There really is no slow scene that begs the DVD user to press fast forward. I wonder if those who are bent on criticising this movie bothered to pay close attention to the detailed acting. Every scene is raw, as if there was no camera or studio guiding each movement. I could easily go over the entire movie front to back, but that would only tap the nerves of those who hate this movie and spoil the plot for those who have yet to see 'Swordfish'. I give this movie a 10/10 ... those who wonder the point Halle Berry shows topless, it serves to reinforce Stanleys admiration for her. In a word, he fell in love with her and the topless scene did nothing to erode his feelings. This lurid thriller comes to life in fits and starts, and then sinks into the bog of its own cleverness once again. Los Angles, CA a5c7b9f00b
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