Wham, bam, thank you everybody. "Swordfish" is a shoot 'em up, blow 'em up, mow 'em down thriller that's so far over the top it ends up looking into itself from behind. John Travolta, in his new screen persona as witty man of evil, in this case named Gabriel Shear, has decided to take the world's confiscated drug money, now reposing in the Los Angeles offices of the supposed world bank, and use it to finance his own terrorist attacks on world terrorists, a plan he or the screenwriter, Skip Woods, apparently think will end world terrorism.
To do it, he needs master computer hacker Hugh Jackman, just released from prison for having hacked into the FBI's files, now living in a old trailer in a Texas oil field and dreaming of a reunion with his 10-year-old daughter. For a fee of $10 million and a non-consensual blow job (don't ask), Jackman must hack into the World Bank, remove the money, and deposit it into Travolta's offshore accounts. In order to accomplish this, for some reason - plot logic isn't the strong point here - it is necessary to stage an actual bank robbery to do what you might think could be done by computer alone, and the film opens and closes with the robbery and its consequences. One of those consequences is that Travolta's group gets to fit its hostages in the bank with collars and vests filled with explosives and ball-bearing shrapnel, to be detonated if and when the cops try any funny business.
And there's more: much, much more. For instance, a strangely aborted subplot involving a U.S Senator and a mysterious foreign hacker who's stopped at Los Angeles immigration because he just happens to be carrying two passports, one of them American, and who is then shot to death in Supervising Agent Don Cheadle's interrogation room just as he's about to start spilling the beans on Travolta. And also for instance, Halle Berry, Travolta's a) handmaiden; or b) his DEA nemesis. She is gorgeous, and she wears a wire when she's not topless; but since we never see drugs anwhere around Travolta and the film makes no mention of them, we can guess that that's not her gig.
Travolta - stocky now, middle-aged, a little slower on his feet - can still command the screen with a star's magic. It's his "Get Shorty" mode of compelling our attention by focusing his laser eyes on whoever is in the frame with him and using that light, thin voice to draw us in as well. Jackman seems on his way to leading-man status, after just two films ("X-Men" was the other). Handsome and convincing here as a put-upon single father, he also has the moves and the voice to make a career for himself. Don Cheadle, in a thankless role as the supervising agent, once again comes through with class.
"Swordfish" (a computer password, if you're interested) has a full quota of car crashes, incidental deaths (or collateral damage as we say), and spectacular stunts, including the transport of a bus full of hostages by helicopter through downtown Los Angeles. It's loud, it's furiously paced by director Dominic Sena ("Gone in Sixty Seconds"), and you're glad when it ends. Very glad.