Swordfish

Noisy and obnoxious, this flashy action picture is so hell-bent on seeming smart that it fairly forces you to think about how fundamentally stupid it is. It opens with the smugly confident Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) delivering a monologue: The trouble with Hollywood, he says, is that it makes crappy movies. Take DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) — it just...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Noisy and obnoxious, this flashy action picture is so hell-bent on seeming smart that it fairly forces you to think about how fundamentally stupid it is. It opens with the smugly confident Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) delivering a monologue: The trouble with Hollywood, he says, is that it makes crappy movies. Take DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) — it just wasn't realistic. If Al Pacino's character had just started killing people, his demands would have been met. And Gabriel should know: He's orchestrating his own hostage drama, from a storefront surrounded by enough cops, helicopters, anti-personnel vehicles and SWAT and negotiating teams to conquer Cuba. But Gabriel's captives are wrapped with 22 pounds of explosives and ball bearings, all wired to a hand-held electronic trigger. Well, hoo hah. The stand-off culminates in a vicious explosion whose impact is thoroughly undermined by MATRIX-style cinematography — sure, it's cool, but detonating a human bomb calls for visceral horror, not chic spectacle. Having secured your attention, if only by being irritating, director Dominic Sena then backtracks via a lengthy flashback. Three days earlier: Gabriel's sidekick Ginger (Halle Berry) recruits super-hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) for a mysterious job. He's fresh off a jail term for hacking the FBI and under orders not to so much as look at a computer through a store window, but needs money to seek custody of his daughter (Camryn Grimes). Her mom (Drea de Matteo) is a drunken smut slag, married to a wealthy porn mogul, filmmakers' shorthand for "the scruffy ex-con's a better parent"; the hypocrisy of this stance in a film that relentlessly ogles its female "characters" — a parade of silicone pop-tarts in various stages of undress — doesn't seem to have disturbed Sena or writer Skip Woods in the least. Gabriel outlines his plan, which involves electronically diverting $6,000,000,000 in government funds, at which point the film devolves into a series of preposterous plot reversals, shootouts, car chases and loving shots of super-swank merchandise, including cars, computers and Berry's boobs. Though not the worst action picture ever made, it's relentlessly mediocre and belligerently determined to hide its mediocrity under sleek production values and cocky attitude. A word to the wise: If you're going to be snippy about DOG DAY AFTERNOON and SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974), you should damned well deliver your own goods.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Noisy and obnoxious, this flashy action picture is so hell-bent on seeming smart that it fairly forces you to think about how fundamentally stupid it is. It opens with the smugly confident Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) delivering a monologue: The trouble w… (more)

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