Swordfish (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

(Note: The film was originally called Operation Swordfish, and is still called that on the official site!) 

Scoopy's comments in white:

There is a lot about Swordfish that might put you off. 

I had a hard time paying attention during the middle of the film. It's just explosions, car chases, improbable situations, and clichés. Pure testosterone. The director also directed "Gone in 60 Seconds", a fact which should give you a definite clue about what kind of movie it will be. This one rivals "Gone" and "MI2" for the title of "loudest film ever made". 

One must reluctantly admit, however, that the explosions are very spectacular, the chases are very fast, the situations are so over-the-top that they telegraph the message "hey, we're just having fun here". And the running time is under 100 minutes, so the pace stays furious. The only part that's really slow is when the action consists entirely of typing, but even that is handled imaginatively. You see, Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman plays a hacker, and he spends plenty of time doing some really good typing. More typing than Ann Sothern did in "Private Secretary". Personally, I think of typing in the same terms as baseball - I've spent a lot of time doing it, but I don't especially enjoy watching other people do it, even if it is spiced up to make it seem exciting. (At one point Vinnie Barbarino tests Wolverine's hacking skills by making him hack an encrypted government site in 60 seconds, while he has a gun to his head, and is simultaneously getting a blow job! Interestingly enough, this is exactly how the CEO of Scoopy Enterprises gets me to write my movie reviews.)

But I think the beginning and ending of the film are great fun. Travolta starts off on camera, expounding to an anonymous audience about how Hollywood movies are shit, and rambling on about Dog Day Afternoon. As the scene expands, we see that he's about to make the point in real life that he just made in the conversation. His point is that if Pacino had really wanted to get out of his predicament in Dog Day Afternoon, he could have, but it would have required complete ruthlessness. Travolta's listeners claim that the reason that didn't happen is that audiences would not tolerate the criminals killing innocent hostages, then making off with the money and living happily ever after. 

But the director of this film is about to test that argument for real. 

In fact, the most fun of the entire movie is that it completely challenges the whole concept of screen morality and morality in general. 

Hugh Jackman, playing the hacker, went to jail because he hacked into the FBI database. What he did was illegal, but he points out that he was trying to prevent the FBI from illegally and unconstitutionally gathering information on private individuals. Didn't matter, said the judge, the law is the law. Now his idealistic ass is forbidden from seeing his daughter while she is in the 100% custody of her porn star mom and mom's new porno baron husband. Doesn't matter that it's not best for the child. Mr Hacker broke the law, and making porn movies is perfectly legal, so mom gets the kid. The law is the law.  


Halle Berry shows her breasts while she reclines in a chaise lounge. The shot is repeated, if you missed it the first time!

In another scene, Halle also appears in very skimpy underwear. 

The script plays the same morality games with the uberbaddie, played by John Travolta. He is completely ruthless and doesn't care a fig for human life, but does he want to steal all those billions for himself? No, as it turns out, he wants the money to finance an anti-terrorist campaign that the US government doesn't have the backbone for. Exactly the same thing General Patton would do if he were still alive. Patton was the guy who told Ike that they had most of the Russian army in Berlin, and plenty of bombs to take care of Moscow, and that the US army should just keep marching. Of course, Ike wouldn't listen to such babble about an American ally. No sane man would. But was Patton's insanity truly wrong? If Russia had been destroyed immediately after World War Two, would that have been a bad thing when seen in the judgment of historical perspective? Wouldn't the lives lost in the short run have been more than balanced by the lives saved in the long run? When you subject it to the cold, hard logic of perspective, perhaps Patton wasn't that wrong, even if he was nuts. The Travolta character here is the same type of guy as Patton. He wants to free the world of major scum who foment war and kill innocent people. If he has to kill five innocent people in a bank robbery to save thousands later, is that good or evil?

In the final twist of morality, the film asks at the beginning why the bad guy never gets away scot-free? Well, I suppose I don't have to tell you how it ends. All that talk about it ruined the surprise. But you just don't know if that's really such a bad thing.

Morally ambiguous. That's kinda cool. I like the film's sangfroid, and its willingness to thumb its nose at all of our expectations about the genre. If this film had come out in 1990, I probably would have declared it a daring work of genius. In the past ten years, however, Tarantino and others have trod on some of this same ground, so we have to evaluate this film more by its action than by its attitude. 

As I said, you'll love the beginning and ending. In the middle, the film will keep you entertained with loud noises and Halle Berry's breasts. For summer fare, that's pretty much enough. It's not a great movie, but it's generally energetic, and the best points are a lot of fun. If you like John Woo's movies, you'll probably like this as well.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • two commentary tracks

  • two documentaries

  • three alternate endings

Tuna's comments in yellow

Halle Berry's Breasts (2001) are finally being released from the confines of her bra. The transfer is very nice, thus exalting the now famous breast exposure, which is gratuitous, as well as the bra and panties scene, which is not gratuitous. 

Oh, the film is also known as Swordfish. 

The film started out slowly for me, and the plot was pretty muddled and confusing. The film starts in the middle of the story, does the first half  in flashback, then goes for the conclusion. In case I am not the only one who didn't see it in the theaters, I won't write spoilers, but there is a very topical anti-terrorism theme, computer hacking, lots of intrigue, chases and explosions, shoot-outs and plenty of plot twists. I found it more enjoyable as the film progressed, and, by the end, was on the edge of  my seat. An interesting point is that they managed lots of dramatic conflict with no real bad guys, acts of nature, or evil presences. 

The Critics Vote

  • Consensus: three stars. Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 74/100, Ebert 2.5/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 28% positive reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary. Score: 6.6/10. Apollo users, 71/100.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ (both reviewers). Will not provide crossover appeal to the people who prefer Jane Austen films, but is one kick-ass, slam-bang, cold-blooded actioner with the brightly lit breasts of one of the planet's more gorgeous women.

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