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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2001!
Directed by Dominic Sena
Starring: John Travolta, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Vinnie Jones, Drea de Matteo
Review by Steve Wrench
A covert unit, headed by the duplicitious and suave Gabriel Shear (Travolta), wants money to help finance their war against international terrorism. He brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman), who only wants to see his daughter Holly again but can't afford the legal fees, to break into the government mainframes and get the dirty money to fund him.
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Gabriel Shear – superslick superspy terrorist-type up to his eyes in babes, money and techno boy's toys. If there was ever an example of a character in a Hollywood movie with a cool job having a cool name this is it. He sounds badass, but he's mostly just bad. Then we have a computer nut called Stanley Jobson – Charles Hawtrey with a ZX81 you would imagine given the geeky moniker. But no, the defiantly un-geeky Hugh Jackman – all rugged, sweaty and chiselled - couldn't be further removed. His more or less unemployed, on probation, world class computer hacker is played as some kind of renegade 'cop-on-the-edge' with questionable golfing skills. Think Martin Riggs with a Mac, and a six iron.
Stanley's at the bottom of the property ladder putting up with an obnoxious pornstar ex, but all he wants is his daughter back. Luckily he's given an offer he can't refuse that might just make it possible – courtesy of Travolta's Shear. The catch is that he must break into a government account holding 9.2 billion dollars – an appropriately ludicrous sum of money. Backed up by a svelte Halle Berry and monosyllabic chief goon Vinnie Jones (wisely restricted to a couple of lines of dialogue here) the scene is set for some hardcore action.
For his first Hollywood lead role, and with his laconic demeanour, Hugh Jackman is wonderfully assured as Stanley. Previously seen as Wolverine in X-Men, he confirmed his star-potential with his Clint Eastwood-lite manner (if there's ever a biopic of the big man there's surely only one contender). Other key secondary roles are filled out by the always watchable Don Cheadle as the agent giving chase who may or may not be able to help Stanley out of his sticky situation, Sam Shepard as a corrupt Senator and Tate Donovon as his dodgy aid.
There are one or two fun twists that play on the whole issue of 'misdirection', and aside from the excruciating and cheesy scene where the film-makers feel it necessary to show how 'cool' hacking is, Swordfish really is the most exciting thing to have come along in a while.
Thanks to director Dominic Sena it wips along at a fair old pace that cuts to the chase and it's propelled by a dynamic orchestral/techno-fusion score from Christopher Young and DJ Paul Oakenfold which also brings something of Michael Kamen to mind. With moments that recall the kinetic energy of The Matrix or Die Hard, down to the spectacular Die-Hard'esque finale, there's only one word for it – intense. No it's not Die Hard, but it is exciting in a way films rarely are these days. But then, what would you expect from producer Joel Silver – the man behind many of the best action flicks of the last thirty years?
As usual the techno-babble is just that – babble. But thankfully there's much more to amuse and admire. So, leave the hacking to the geeks and revel in the cracking opening five minutes which are likely to be among the most thrilling sequences you'll witness in any year.