Take a pinch of a plot, a dash of sex appeal, a sprinkling of spectacular effects. Marinate with a lot of technical gobbledygook and keep to bake, covered with a plateful of action. Savour it. That's "Swordfish" for you.
"Swordfish" begins with a surrealistic conversation about violent movies, in a cafe surrounded by SWAT teams. A bunch of people are being held hostage and in a trade-off, one of them gets blown up, leading to an awesome display of special effects. The plot then restarts in the past.
Stanley (Hugh Jackman) is one of the best hackers in the world, but is currently living in a dump, moping for his daughter, who is in the custody of her mother. He's approached by Ginger (Halle Berry), an intelligent sex-kitten (yeah, right!), who offers Stanley a huge amount of money just to meet her boss and listen to his requirements; and closes her arguments by taunting him about his daughter. Meanwhile, simultaneously, another top hacker is entering the country but is caught by the police and subsequently killed before he can reveal any details. Which means that cyber-crime expert Roberts (Don Cheadle), the guy who first caught Stanley, is back on his trail.
Ginger's boss turns out to be Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), a cool cat if ever there was one - smooth, flashy, convincing and always in control. After "Stan" passes the first test - laced with some innovative hurdles - he's entrusted with the main job. Basically, Stan has to break into an awesomely complex computer network and extricate $9.5 billion. Cool, huh? But don't expect it to be easy...the FBI, the DEA, the ATF and a bunch of other three-letter agencies are after Shear and his team, together with a mysterious bunch of politicians in Washington.
The story is a little cliched, but there are some new ideas in here that will truly blow you away. The cinematography is good and the movie is paced quite well, utilizing many of the same visual tricks seen in "The Matrix" (not surprising, considering that "Swordfish" is produced by the same team). The USP here, though, has to be the twists in the tale, especially the ones near the end, which will make you want to see this movie more than once (again, kinda like "The Matrix").
The acting is a little overshadowed by the technical material - a regular failing in hi-tech movies. Among the actors, Travolta is the best by a mile; his potrayal of the ruthless and suave Gabriel has to be one of the best of his lifetime (and more than makes up for "Battlefield Earth"). Jackman just moves his fingers like lightning and looks confused and troubled. Berry is revelling in her screen siren image and pouts sexily and sashays all over the screen, but I think even her miniscule role in "Race The Sun" was better.
"Swordfish" has been marketed as a summer blockbuster and fulfils all expectations on that front; you should get your money's worth. If nothing else, watch it for Travolta - his role in "Swordfish", though not quite up there with "Pulp Fiction" and "Get Shorty", is executed with such elan and brazen confidence that it makes you forget all about the holes in the story, and realize that no one can quite do cool the way he does.This article was first published on 08 Oct 2001.