A hack of a movie

John Travolta smirks as he puts the moves on an unsuspecting Hugh Jackman in <i>Swordfish</i>.

John Travolta smirks as he puts the moves on an unsuspecting Hugh Jackman in Swordfish.

Rated 1.0

Sometimes, it’s OK when an action picture tries to be a little smarter, perhaps more clever than the rest (Mission: Impossible comes to mind). But sometimes, as is the case with Swordfish, it can be annoying as all hell.

This film spends a lot of energy trying to trick you regarding character identities and motivations, and what it really needs to do is just blow things up. It is the umpteenth pic dealing with cyberspace and hackers, and I need another one of those movies like I need the new Journey album with that Steve Perry sound-alike.

Australian Hugh Jackman, trying to sound American but sounding more like Rex Harrison’s Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady, plays Stanley, a super hacker who did a few clicks in the penitentiary and is no longer allowed to touch a computer keyboard. Halle Berry shows up at his trailer wearing a tight red number and hurls a bunch of money at him, telling Stanley that her boss really wants to meet him.

The boss turns out to be John Travolta, and for the life of me, I still don’t know what the fuck his character was supposed to be. I have a general idea, but when I put it all together, I don’t understand his significance or the reality of his character, and I basically just don’t give a crap. Shut the hell up, quit trying to trick me with plot twist hijinks and go blow some stuff up! I don’t need my brain massaged by a movie called Swordfish, produced by action schlockmeister Joel Silver. I want limbs flying at the screen resulting from some big fireballs.

Things blow up real good in the movie’s beginning, a few minutes of movie-making that makes you think there are good things to come, and that much will be blown up in the ensuing moments. In fact, as someone who has seen lots of movies, I would’ve guessed that a semi-decent action film was on the way due to the film’s opener. That’s because, like the makers of this movie, I am sometimes prone to idiocy.

While I also liked a car-chase shootout and a climax involving a busload of hostages being airlifted by a helicopter, I could probably fill a 10-page article with things I despised. For starters, I hated the Halle Berry character, and I never truly realized just how poor an actress she could be until I witnessed her overdone work in this film. I also hated that damn peach fuzz on Travolta’s chin, that black line of hair leading up to his bottom lip, making him look like he’s dribbling motor oil.

While I’m at it, I hated the Travolta character as well, a sad mishmash of Travolta’s past villains, including Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega and those from John Woo movies (Broken Arrow, Face Off). That stupid sneer thing he does, the combination smile and grimace, is getting to be a tired bit. He’s slumming again.

The main set piece of this film is a multi-screened computer system that Jackman’s character does his hacking on. Because nothing is more boring to watch than someone actually hacking, the movie has a scene where Jackman types away on multiple keyboards to a techno track on the soundtrack. The tune might as well have been “Roundabout,” because Jackman looks like Yes’ Rick Wakeman sans cape.

You will not be able to read an article about this film without comments on Halle Berry’s breasts. Yes, the breasts are revealed gratuitously in this film, and yes, they are not hard on the eyes. But Halle’s berries are not a good enough reason to see Swordfish—unless you’re some kind of pervert.