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SWORDFISH
Reviewed November 8th, 2001 by David Nusair

 

Unlike most mega-budget so-called action movies released nowadays, Swordfish is actually violent. Many such pictures are so desperate to receive the coveted PG-13 rating - so as to bring in a larger audience - they'll eschew carnage in favor of more explosions and more stunt work. Swordfish, thankfully, marks a return to the violent summer movie (though still not as violent as some films that came before it).

Hugh Jackman stars as a retired (read: parolled) hacker that's recruited to crack an impossible encryption system by super-villain John Travolta. Why would he do this, you ask? Simple: His daughter is living with his ex-wife and since he's an ex-convict, it's near impossible for him to regain custody (although, as another critic pointed out, his ex-wife is now appearing in porn films, so how difficult would it have been to convince a judge that she's an unsuitable influence?), so Travolta offers to pay him an exorbitant amount of money for him to retain a fancy legal team. Halle Berry also stars, in a completely useless role that seems to have been included in the film only to allow her the opportunity to go topless.

While Swordfish isn't exactly a masterpiece of filmmaking in any respect, it is consistently entertaining and considering how dull most summer movies are these days, that's all one can ask. Directed by Dominic Sena (who helmed last year's equally entertaining Gone in 60 Seconds), the movie opens with a lengthy monologue by Travolta decrying Hollywood movies. This speech is incredibly entertaining, albeit in a Pulp Fiction-esque, look-how-clever-I-am sort of way. Skip Woods, the man behind the equally pop-culture riffing Thursday, has crafted an intelligent screenplay and that came as somewhat of a surprise. When most movies of this sort are as stupid as Tomb Raider, it's genuinely exciting to see a movie with dialogue that doesn't suck.

And what a relief it was, finally, to see a movie use the Matrix bullet-time effect well. The 360-degree look at an explosion is probably the coolest thing you'll see for a while (and Sena doesn't over use it either; it's shown once and that's it).

Look, Swordfish isnít any kind of masterpiece. Far from it - Berry's character is completely superfluous, the mid-section drags a bit and there are enough plot holes to fly one of Travolta's jets through - but for what it is, it works. Strap yourself in for the ride and enjoy.

Audio: Two words: reference quality. Check out the first 10-minutes, if you donít believe me. This DD 5.1 soundtrack is just amazing. In those first 10-minutes, youíll be aurally attacked by an explosion that, depending on what kind of set up youíve got, will rock your room and wake your neighbors. But through all the extreme moments (thatís just one of many), the quieter spots remain just as crisp and clear as youíd want them to. This is one of the most active soundtracks Iíve ever heard and will surely be required when attempting to impress your friends.

Video: Ditto the transfer. This 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer is equally jaw-dropping. The whole thing just seems so vibrant and colorful. And of course, there isnít a speck or line or any sort of DVD or film-related artifact. Outside of something like Toy Story, this is about as good as a video transfer tends to get on DVD. Kudos to Warner Bros. for an all around amazing audio/video transfer.

Extras: First up is a commentary track with director Dominic Sena. Sena proves to be a very interesting man, as he provides various tales from the set. This is also quite an informative track, with Sena letting us in on everything from the scriptís origins to Berryís ďinfamousĒ (his words) topless scene. Next up are two documentaries Ė the first devoted to the making of the movie, while the second is devoted entirely to the special effects (more specifically, the whole bus thing at the end). These are both quite interesting, and surprisingly enough, not as fluffy as one might expect. Though there are no deleted scenes, we are treated to two alternate endings (along with optional Sena commentary). Both are fairly similar, and offer a more downbeat ending for a central character. Sena explains why both endings were scrapped in favor of the current one, and Iím inclined to agree with him. Finally, thereís some cast/crew filmographies and an anamorphic trailer.

Conclusion: Swordfish is just a fun time. Donít take it seriously, and youíll enjoy it.

 

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