In the Dark: Swordfish
Eric D. Snider
I'm going to tell you about "Swordfish," the new ultra-dumb high-tech thriller starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry's breasts, but first I need to share my Quentin Tarantino/Satan theory. It is this: Quentin Tarantino is Satan.
Think about it. Tarantino came out of nowhere and foisted John Travolta upon us with "Pulp Fiction." He made us think Travolta was a great actor, causing us to forget the previous decade of mediocrity and talking babies. Travolta's huge, muttony face started showing up in eight or nine movies a year, and we loved it because we loved Travolta! We were so glad to have him back! Thank you, Tarantino, for returning him to us!
But then, in an instant, Tarantino was gone. He had scampered back to his den of darkness, leaving naught behind but "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction," a lot of crap, and Travolta. And now we're stuck with him. After "Pulp Fiction" and "Get Shorty," Travolta's usefulness wore off…but he kept making movies. Bad ones. Movies like "The General's Daughter" and "Michael." (You are going to argue that "Michael" was not a bad movie, but you are wrong, and I am not going to discuss the issue with you. I would point out the blubbering pompousness of "Phenomenon," too, except that it would prevent my ever being loved by a woman again.)
Now Tarantino has gone back to the hell whence he sprang, and Travolta is still here, oblivious to his own ridiculousness and continuing to manufacture crappy, crappy, crappy movies like his 2000 double-header of "Battlefield Earth" and "Lucky Numbers." O Tarantino, foul demon! Why have you afflicted us so?!
Travolta's latest career mistake, "Swordfish," has him trying to recapture his villainous glory days from "Face/Off." He plays a crazy genius (is there any other kind of genius these days?) named Gabriel who is an expert at robbing banks by electronic means. Well, actually, he's an expert at hiring really good computer hackers to do this for him. If Gabriel himself has any talent, it is in his hiring practices and delegation skills, which frankly makes me question the decision to put him forth as a major supervillain.
His latest scheme is to make off with $10 billion that the government has lying around. He gets a fellow named Stanley (Hugh Jackman) to do this for him. Stanley went to prison for computer hacking and is not allowed to touch so much as a Speak 'n' Spell as a condition of his parole; however, Gabriel persuades him to help anyway, promising to get him custody of his young daughter, who is currently living with her porn-star mother and porn-director stepfather. (I realize our justice system is screwed up, but would any judge really think the porn home was a better place for young Holly than with her reformed white-collar-criminal father?)
But here again it is Gabriel's delegation skills that save the day, for he does not visit Stanley himself; surely Gabriel is too busy for such trivial matters, what with all the delegating he does back at the office. He sends his girlfriend, Ginger, who is played by Halle Berry's breasts. Later, Ginger is sitting in a beach chair, reading a book. When Stanley approaches, she drops the book so she can talk to him, and she reveals that her breasts are bare. They remain uncovered for something like three hours. There is no reason for this in the movie, except that someone wanted to see Halle Berry's breasts, and apparently she was young and needed the money.
Director Dominic Sena, who was also responsible for "Gone in 60 Seconds," walked around the set with a clipboard, checking off the clichés as he used them. Bullet-heavy car chase in which the laws of gravity, physics, and averages are defied and only the protagonists survive? Check. Brilliant villain who cites high-minded political philosophy as the reason for his deeds? Check. Hero's daughter held hostage at gunpoint while clutching a teddy bear? Check.
In the end, Stanley and some FBI guys save the day, and then Stanley gets to go home without so much as a waiver to sign. You'd think there would be a lot of paperwork involved in this kind of thing, but I guess not. Oh, and I saw Travolta on "The Tonight Show" the other night, where sycophantic tapeworm Jay Leno was telling him how great "Swordfish" is. Tarantino is gone, but many are still actively involved in doing his work.