All to Fishy for Hack man Jackman
"Swordfish - A large marine food and game fish" as is the definition given at thefreedictionary.com. What that has to do with the 2001 movie called "Swordfish" is very little, other than the word "Swordfish" gets used a couple of times during the movie. What "Swordfish" the movie is, is an attempt to combine computer geekery with classic villains to make a fast paced, action packed, stylized thriller which will have you on the edge of your seats. I say attempt as what "Swordfish" really is, is a heavily stylized action movie which starts off poorly and ends up being cheesy, using its star names for nothing more than screen gloss and is certainly not in the least bit thrilling.
In "Swordfish" John Travolta (Lucky Numbers) stars as Gabriel Shear, a ruthless, charismatic criminal who is on the FBI's most wanted list. With the help of his sexy assistant Ginger (Halle Berry - X-Men), he coerces expert computer hacker, Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman - Real Steel) into helping him rob a bank of a few million dollars to finance his own criminal plans. Under stress Jobson agrees as long as Gabriel helps him to regain custody of his daughter.
There is one major problem with "Swordfish" and that is it has a really terrible storyline, not in the fact that the idea is terrible but the fact that it is so contrived, riddled with gaping plot holes and appears to spiral into being more ridiculous the longer it goes on, is what makes it terrible. I actually like the idea for the movie, the computer hacker forced to help out a career criminal to rob a bank, I like all the little sub elements such as the battle over the custody of the daughter. But it is so poorly pieced together that it ends up feeling corny especially as it all becomes more outrageous and fantasy like the longer the movie goes on.
It also doesn't help matters that it is not in the least bit thrilling, as in delivering intrigue and mystery. It tries to be clever throwing in a few clues here and there, a dead body etc etc, little things which are put into place to pave the way for some ingenious twist later on. But it never works because the storyline is not tight enough or really that engaging to make you want to work out what is happening.
What this means is that instead of trying to develop a clever storyline "Swordfish" relies on over the top performances, heavy stylization and to be honest mediocre action to try and disguise its numerous shortfallings. But even then it still doesn't really work because it feels ridiculous and corny especially when it comes to the computer hacking side of the movie where you have Hugh Jackman doing a Jerry Lee Lewis style performance as his over the top hacking theatrics end up feeling laughable. It's very much a case of making the computer side of the movie feel big and glamorous, with lots of computer screens, semi impressive graphics and of course enough techno mumbo jumbo to bemuse anyone who's never touched a keyboard.
It's a sign of how poor a storyline is when they throw in semi-eroticism for no other reason than to grab your attention. With Hugh Jackman dressed in just a bath towel swinging his club, golf club that is and Halle Berry appearing topless in a pointless scene it feels at times desperate. Which is certainly the case when Jackman's character Stanley is forced to demonstrate his hacking skills whilst getting a blow job, all it needed was for Queen's "Under Pressure" to be playing in the back ground and it would have been as corny and crass as it sounds.
As for the performances well Hugh Jackman who looks like a cross between Marti Pellow and David Tennant appears to be uncomfortable throughout the movie, forced to over act in every scene and deliver a character which is so inconsistent that it's impossible to connect with. Worse is to come when it comes to Halle Berry who is basically used only as eye candy through out the movie, which makes me wonder why she agreed to do such a terrible movie or whether her best scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Plus there is Vinnie Jones who is their as background muscle, except for one scene where he gets to spout some innocuous and cheesy dialogue in his gruff British accent.
But the worse performance sadly comes from John Travolta as the criminal mastermind Gabriel Shear. Not only is he not convincing as someone evil enough to be a ruthless villian but he doesn't appear to be clever enough to come up with the plan. It ends up that Gabriel Shear ends up as a cartoon villain more at home in one of the old Adam West Batman shows, especially as Travolta's hair and goatee makes him look ridiculous.
What this all boils down to is that "Swordfish" is a movie which despite being a good idea ends up feeling corny because of the poorly developed storyline. It should be thrilling with intrigue and mystery but instead is overly stylized and full of over the top performance. If you just want a glossy movie which is fast paced, outrageous with a few star names then this could be right up your street. But if you want an intelligent, realistic thriller which will draw you in with mystery and intrigue then you will end up being disappointed.