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John Travolta...............Gabriel Shear
Hugh Jackman................Stanley Jobson
Halle Berry.................Ginger
Don Cheadle.................Agent A.D. Roberts
Vinnie Jones................Marco
Camryn Grimes...............Holly Jobson
Sam Shepard.................Senator
Zach Grenier................A.D. Joy
Chic Daniel.................S.W.A.T. Leader
Angelo Pagan................Torres

Directed by: Dominic Sena

Written by: Skip Woods

Rated R for violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity

Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

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Many of my colleagues disagree with me on this, but I don't believe one volunteers a suspension of disbelief. I think if you're captivated by a particular story, then it just kind of takes over and you're willing to let possible lapses in plot logic slide a bit. So, when a movie like "Swordfish" comes along that defies logic not for narrative resonance or to inveigel interest but rather solely for the sake of defying logic, as far as I'm concerned all bets are off. If a film doesn't bother to interest me, then I sadly refuse to suspend disbelief.

To say that "Swordfish" doesn't make much sense would be too kind. Skip Woods' screenplay seems to go out of its way to bend logical thought. Oh sure, he pays close attention to detail so as to justify the plot twists that occur at the movie's conclusion. Where the story really plummets is with regards to the motivations of its characters.

The movie stars John Travolta as Gabriel Shear, the kind of villain who's more bored than sinister. He has tons of money and way too much time on his hands. He loves movies, loves magic, loves America, and hates terrorists, which is all we need to know as he is engaging in a conspiracy to steal over nine billion dollars for the purchase of nuclear weapons. He considers himself a soldier against terrorism, even though his own tactics leave much to be desired ... in a moral sense, sure, but also in that he's just not very good at his job.

For example, (WARNING: Some plot points will be revealed in this paragraph. If you want nothing given away, I would recommend skipping to the next paragraph.) near the end of the story when Gabriel is making his getaway in a bus chock full of hostages, all of whom have plastic explosives strapped to their chests, he decides to employ a little "misdirection" and has his personal helicopter swoop down, latch onto the bus and lift it into the air. In the midst of the escape, the chopper zips too close to a skyscraper, the bus slams into the building causing all but one of the hooks holding the vehicle aloft to break. Hostages subsequently tumble out, exploding into clouds of flesh from the C-4 attached to their bodies. As I watched this stupifying display of ineptitude, I had but one thought: this guy is a soldier against terrorism? To place myself in the shoes of another for a quick second, if I were one of the co-conspirators I wouldn't trust this idiot with an ex-in-law's AMC Pacer, let alone a collection of nukes.

To successfully transfer the funds into the appropriate accounts, Gabriel hires a paroled computer hacker named Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman). However, the hopeful billionaire needs to find out if he can trust him to do the job right, so he issues a test. Stan has one minute to hack into the Justice Department's computer with a gun pointed at his head and a prostitute performing oral sex on him at the same time ... covering all bases, I suppose. I guess you just never know what to expect in the arena of anti-terrorism.

Stan goes along with the plan, mostly for his daughter who is in the sole custody of her mother, a drunken dimwit now married to a porn king. (That snowball effect is really something, isn't it?) It all culminates into a standoff with whatever lives left hanging in the balance.

There are only a couple elements that make the movie marginally watchable. One is the performance of Hugh Jackman ("X-Men"), who lends a surprising amount of credibility to a story that otherwise houses not a shred of it. He accomplished the same feat earlier this year with "Someone Like You". The other is the stylish direction of former music video auteur Dominic Sena. The standoff sequence is handled with definitive skill including a "Matrix"-like freezing of an explosion, as is a scene where Stan is being chased down an embankment by a tenacious FBI agent (Don Cheadle). Unfortunately, his masterful style is at the mercy of a sadistically stupid script. A genuine visual artist, Sena nonetheless needs a decent screenplay backing his vision up. "Kalifornia" was a true cinematic achievement. He has gone two down since, first with the dreadful remake of Toby Halicki's "Gone in 60 Seconds", and now here.

As a side note, I've noticed the movie is engaged in a cross-promotion with Heineken Beer. The commercial shows Travolta in character surrounded with supermodels and holding a Heiney. The ad ends with the tag line: "It's all about the beer." I have no doubt it was.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically Ill

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