What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a true R movie, with very strong language, nudity, sexual references and situations (including using a woman like property and ordering her to service Stanley sexually in front of other people), and a lot of violence. Many people are killed, and there's an extended close-up of a grisly corpse.
What's the story?
SWORDFISH centers on mysterious bad guy Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), who wants the greatest hacker in the world, Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) to help him steal a lot of money from a bank. We first see Gabriel talking about what's wrong with Hollywood movies and describing his objections to Dog Day Afternoon. It becomes apparent that (like the film Shear mentions), Shear is holding hostages. They're strapped in explosives and ball bearings, so that when one person explodes. Then a flashback: Ginger (Halle Berry) finds Stanley working as a maintenance man at an oil rig, under probation that will send him to jail immediately if he touches a computer keyboard. She tells Stanley that her employer will pay $100,000 just to meet him, and Stanley, whose goal is to regain custody of his daughter, accepts. Gabriel gives Stanley a rather unusual test -- 60 seconds to break into a Defense Department computer system while a gun is at his head, among other distractions. Many explosions and shoot-outs and car chases later, we are back at the hostage scene for action and predicable events.
Is it any good?
If attitude and very cool explosions were enough to make a movie worthwhile, then this one would win an Oscar. But movies generally require something along the lines of characters and plot, and there this movie lets us down. The dialogue is supposed to be hip and sardonic, but it is just third-rate Tarantino. Swordfish tries for a vibe that is cool, amoral, and ambiguous, but what it gets is a vibe that is manipulative and insincere.
Jackman and Berry do their best with criminally underwritten parts, but Travolta never makes us believe that his character has two dimensions, much less three. All that's left are the explosions and chases which are well handled, but we care so little about the outcome that they barely matter.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the Bentham-esque conundrum posed by Gabriel. If you could wipe out cancer by killing one child, would you do it? Should Stanley have violated his parole and broken the law in order to get his daughter back? How is what he did when Ginger was being threatened make him different from Gabriel?