Warner Bros. // 2001 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // December 12th, 2006
Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything.
Want to guess which scene I watched first?
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and Catwoman hire Wolverine to steal nine billion dollars from a secret government stash. Buck Swope tries to stop them.
You already know pretty much everything there is to know about Swordfish, don't you? It's another action flick from über-producer Joel Silver. It's directed by the guy who made that awful remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds. John Travolta attempted to make everyone forget about his role as the villain with a big noggin in Battlefield Earth by playing a villain with a half-assed soul patch. This was Hugh Jackman's first major role after hitting it big with X-Men. And Halle Berry was paid a ton of money to reveal what her momma gave her, which apparently helped assuage the indignity of being paid next to nothing to reveal even more of what her momma gave her six months later in Monster's Ball (regardless, it was money well spent). Doesn't sound like much, and the movie didn't exactly meet expectations at the box office, but it's not half bad as these things go. Swordfish is completely disposable, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Swordfish opens with Travolta's somewhat ironic rant about the state of modern Hollywood, which is soon followed by a sequence in which a woman wearing a vest of C4 explodes, vaporizing Tom Cruise's cousin and sending hundreds of ball bearings ripping through the air. It's an undeniably arresting chain of events, even if it does come across as something a screenwriting student would cook up in hopes of getting his script noticed, but it sets up expectations the rest of the movie cannot meet. The story slowly but surely becomes more ridiculous (and less interesting) as it moves along (somebody explain to me how Travolta manages to locate Sam Shepard's character, or why Shepard isn't surrounded by armed guards), and it doesn't add up in the end, but the movie's slickly made, and the acting is solid (you can't go wrong hiring Don Cheadle), so it's easy to overlook its flaws...at least while you're watching it. This isn't the sort of thing you'll want (or will feel the need) to think about once it's over.
As I alluded to earlier, the movie director Dominic Sena made immediately previous to Swordfish has to be one of the most anemic action flicks ever foisted on audiences. Well, it looks like Sena learned a little from his mistakes, because Swordfish is a definite step up. He's still no master when it comes to cinematic thrills (as silly as it may be, the sequence with the bus works, but the car chase in the middle of the movie is handled a bit awkwardly), although it looks like he is beginning to get a handle on how to shoot these B-level actioners.
Director Sena and cinematographer Paul Cameron (who had a hand in shooting Michael Mann's Collateral) opted for a highly stylized visual scheme for Swordfish, and the transfer on this Blu-ray disc conveys that look splendidly. (For the record, only two scenes appear not to have been digitally manipulated or filtered: the epilogue and the money shot.) Colors pop when they should, are cool when they need to be, and smolder when they're asked to. Blacks are deep, shadow detail is excellent, and artifacts are nowhere to be found. And while I know you're probably sick of reading this same assessment over and over again, the entire appearance is richer, smoother and more film-like than the standard DVD. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (no advanced audio codecs here) runs the gamut from raucously loud to pin-drop quiet, which was the intent. Dialogue is always clear, surround action is copious and immersive, and there is plenty of window-rattling bass activity.
As was the case with the HD disc, the extras are a direct port of those found on the original DVD. Director Dominic Sena offers up a fairly interesting commentary track, and also provides commentary for the two alternate endings that are included. You also get one of those fluffy HBO promo pieces, some uninformative interviews, a look at the creation of the flying bus sequence, a music video for the club mix of one of the Paul Oakenfold techno tunes featured on the soundtrack, and the movie's theatrical trailer.
Want to guess which scene I went back and watched when the movie was over?
Guilty of being nothing more than exactly what it is, and that's fine by me.
Review content copyright © 2006 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Two Alternate Endings
* HBO First Look: Swordfish
* Effects in Focus: The Flying Bus
* Planet Rock Club Reel Music Video
* Cast/Crew Interview
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site