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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/12/01



Swordfish
2001 (2001) - Village Roadshow/Warner Bros. (Warner)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Swordfish Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/A-

Specs and Features

99 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 46:45, at the start of chapter 14), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary track with director Dominic Sena, The Making of Swordfish featurette, The Effects in Focus featurette, 2 alternate endings (with optional director's commentary), cast and crew profiles, theatrical trailer, PCFriendly DVD-ROM features (including additional cast interviews, web links, special DVD event announcements, latest DVDs announcement, and newsletter signup), film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English and French-Canadian (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"You know what the problem with Hollywood is? They make shit - unbelievable, unremarkable shit."

Yes, they certainly do. And while many critics considered Swordfish to be yet another in a long line of films of the flushable variety, I dug this flick more than I thought I would, and found it to be one of the most enjoyable of the 2001 summer films. In retrospect, I guess that's not saying much, but there were some pretty good films, with both A.I. and American Pie 2 rounding out my summer '01 top three.

Director Dominic Sena's follow-up to last summer's Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish is the same type of film. You know - lots of action, big explosions, larger-than-life characters and no chance at an Oscar. However, this time a little more brainpower is required. Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman plays Stanley, the country's most notorious hacker, who just got out of jail for debilitating the FBI's domestic e-mail spy program. Stanley's one of those well-intentioned patriot-criminals - you know, the ones who go to jail for trying to exploit the government's questionable secret operations that whittle away our freedom. Attempting to keep his nose clean, Stanley lives in a meager trailer and makes his living greasing things… oil pumps or something - a job well beneath his intellect. He lost custody of his daughter Holly (played by Camryn Grimes, who managed to turn in the movie's best performance, despite the fact that the costume designer dressed her a million miles away from how real 10-year-olds dress) to his sleazy ex-wife, but Stanley doesn't have the funds it would require to hire a decent lawyer to get Holly back. The man is just really unhappy.

When the slick, sexy Ginger (Halle "Storm" Berry) drives up to Stanley's trailer, and tells him that her boss Gabriel (John Travolta) wants to hire him to perform a little computer fraud (to put it mildly), the promise of stacks and stacks of money derails Stanley's attempts at being a good boy. After going to work for Gabriel, our hero discovers that things (and people) are not what they seem. Stanley and his daughter are thrown into a deadly terrorist conspiracy, and the only way to escape is to see his deal with Gabriel through to the end. Will Stanley be able to foil the bad guys' plans and end the threat? Are the bad guys really so bad, and is what they do justifiable in the long run? Yes... Swordfish does raise some ethical questions that the filmmakers leave up to the audience to answer for themselves, and these issues are all the more thought provoking in light of September 11th.

Let me get this out of the way first: Swordfish is filled with mediocre performances, some questionable dialog and, save for the ending, a fairly derivative story structure (down to the requisite car chase sequence about half way into the film). But the entire package is wrapped in a shiny, hi-tech, sexy little box that just begs to be opened.

Here's what made Swordfish work for me: the opening sequence, Gabriel's TVR Tuscan Speed 6 in chameleon green, Vinnie Jones and the ending. Make no mistake - this film is all about style, baby! The opening sequence is unique (for this genre) and sports an explosion that will grab you by the short and curlies. The TVR Tuscan Speed 6, with the chameleon paint, is hands-down the sweetest thing on four wheels (thank you, Dominic, for showing it some love) and Vinnie Jones (who plays one of Gabriel's goombahs) is just one bad mo' fo'! Note to Hollywood: more Vinnie Jones. And any film that makes the audience use its brain, and/or make its own judgment call, is a-okay in my book.

A shiny, stylized movie deserves a kick ass DVD transfer, and that's just what Warner has provided. The fine picture detail is stunning, as everything is revealed with pure clarity (except for the intentionally out-of-focus instances in the film). Colors, such as the greens and sepias of film's color palette, are reproduced accurately, as is the deep black level. This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer contains no distracting compression artifacting, with only minor haloing caused by artificial edge enhancement keeping the video from being completely perfect.

And the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't fail to impress, either. Featuring a wide, expansive soundstage, the track images beautifully and sports plenty of directional effects and deep, booming bass. The rear channels are used for front-to-back directional effects and for music and ambiance fill, but are not used as consistently as they probably should be. Nonetheless, the 5.1 track will do its job of pulling you into the action as it unfolds on-screen.

With a film so deeply rooted in the world of fancy-schmancy computer technology, you didn't really expect Warner to let Swordfish be a bummer movie-only DVD, did you? Of course not. While this disc does boast a nice array of extras, it's not a groundbreaking special edition by any means. The best supplement to be found is the commentary track by Dominic Sena, in which the director goes into great detail about how the film was made. He's an entertaining guy who really knows his stuff, and the track never gets boring, or lapses into long bouts of silence. A 14-minute featurette called The Making of Swordfish is mostly promotional in nature, but worth looking at if you liked the film. The Effects in Focus is an 8-minute piece that highlights the "flying bus" sequence, and is more useful from a filmmaking standpoint than its companion featurette. Two alternate endings are presented (with optional director's commentary) that wrap up the film with slightly different tones than the one used in the final product. Luckily, the filmmakers chose the best ending for the final cut. Some cast and crew profiles, along with the theatrical trailer, conclude the in-player extra features. A few PC Friendly DVD-ROM features are also included and, in the spirit of Universal DVDs, they are mostly promotional. You'll find a couple minutes of additional cast interviews, in which they profess their knowledge (or lack thereof) of computers, as well as web links, special DVD event announcements, latest DVD announcements and a newsletter signup.

If you're looking for a chic action flick, look no further than Swordfish. It's not a deeply cerebral film, but it is stylish and sexy, and the ending could serve as the basis of an ethics debate with your friends. If anything, the audio and video of the disc will wow you. Oh, yeah… how could I forget! Halle Berry gets naked in this film. I'm glad she was patient and waited all these years for the right movie to finally come along. It would be a shame if her first nude scene were gratuitous and didn't add anything of value to the story...

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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