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:: Swordfish

Swordfish opens as every good action movie should- with the calm before the storm. One minute a triple espresso, a scary looking cigar and an even scarier looking cigar lighter are flashing across the screen in semi- focused close up’s with some idle chit chat about Hollywood going on in the background, the next, a bomb attached to an attractive young hostage is exploding causing everything within a 5 mile radius to fly into the air with that kind of “frozen action” that characterised the Matrix. And so opens one of the most eagerly anticipated cinema releases of this year, “Swordfish” the new film by Producers Joe Silver (The Matrix, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds) and Jonathon D Crane (Pink Panther, Phenomenon, Face/ Off) and Director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds).

Not only does Swordfish have the production credentials to make anyone in Hollywood weak at the knees, it also features an all star cast including John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, Grease), Australia’s own Hugh Jackman (X -Men, Someone Like You), Halle Berry (X-Men, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) and Don Cheadle (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven). It is little wonder that it will be one of the biggest releases to hit the American box office this year.

Swordfish follows the story of Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) one of the world’s best hackers. Stanley has just gotten out of jail with the simple parole terms of “staying as far away from a keyboard or any other form of electronic equipment as humanly possible” after his hacking in and messing around with an FBI program got him into jail in the first place. With all intentions of abiding by this condition, Stanley goes to live out in the middle of nowhere in a trailer park that looks as though it hasn’t ever seen the likes of a computer despite the 50 foot powerlines that dangle overhead. He spends his day hitting golf balls off his trailer roof and musing about how he can get custody of his daughter Holly back from his drug addicted ex-wife and her new porn-making husband. That is until the fateful day that Ginger (Halle Berry) shows up in a smouldering, tight, red outfit chewing on matching bright red candy and offers him a deal he cannot refuse. On first seeing Ginger Stanley remarks, “Who do you think you are?” Who indeed.

Ginger offers him a cool $100 000 (to put towards a good family lawyer) just to meet with her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) and if Stanley doesn’t like what he hears, he can simply walk away. Little does Stanley know that an airplane flight and an introduction to Gabriel later, he will find himself with a gun to his head, a girl in his lap and sixty seconds to break a code other hackers can do in 60 minutes. As the film unfolds Stanley is sucked deeper and deeper into Gabriel’s world, whatever that world may be, the only thing that is completely clear is that everything is not what it first seems.

Gabriel, a man who has changed his identity so many times he can barely remember who he was to begin with has connections with, for and against the US government that remain slightly out of focus for the majority of the film. His basic motivation, however is clear, cash and lots of it. He has his sights set on billions of dollars of DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) money originally deposited as part of a money laundering scheme- code name Swordfish. It has been sitting there accumulating interest for several years, so although Gabriel has the plan, he doesn’t have the skills. Enter Stanley, whose job then becomes cracking the code, gaining access to the DEA money, transferring it and deleting any trace of the transaction. In return Stanley will receive a $10 million payoff and thereby a chance to regain custody of his daughter.

The film then meanders through action scene after action scene where various government organisations and miscellaneous others attempt to work out who Gabriel is, what Stanley is up to, and preferably put a stop to it all.

Meanwhile with the director, the special effects coordinator and director of photography from the film “Gone With 60 Seconds” on board, expectations are that there will be a half decent car chase scene in Swordfish, and again, like the opening scene we are not disappointed. Hugh Jackman, who actually learnt how to stunt drive for the part, and John Travolta, who does a remarkable job of hanging on without looking like he’s trying, fly around corners at 70 kilometres an hour in a British TVR coupe. They duck in and out of alleyways, go head on into oncoming traffic and pull hand brake manoeuvres only dreamt of in Gone With 60 Seconds.

However despite the stellar cast and the credentials of the production team, what lets Swordfish down in the end is a rather mediocre script. Not only is the technical hacking jargon lost on the best of us, there has also been controversy as to the correctness of it for those who do understand things like AutoCAD, many headed worms and 512 bit encryptions. On top of this Hugh Jackman just doesn’t look right doing it. The exploration of notions of “the good guy” and “the bad guy” get lost somewhere amid the action sequences and the push toward a Hollywood conclusion.

Swordfish is worth a look for any action movie aficionados to see how a bus can fly through the air attached to a helicopter. Those who like Halle Berry get to see her topless. At the very least, the worth is seeing the incredible opening ten minutes.

Screening on general release