Everything about Swordfish is an exercise in excess. It is nothing more than big dumb summer fun, although the fun part is highly debatable. Unlike many other similar movies, Swordfish realizes how cheesy it is and inserts cornball dialogue to play along with the joke. So although it's not that great, it knows it and wants the audience to have some fun with it. Where else can a film start with John Travolta ranting on how bad Hollywood films are? After all, his last two films were Lucky Numbers and Battlefield Earth. And how often can one watch a bus airlifted by a helicopter flying through the streets of Los Angeles? Despite the fact that there is a heavy plot with a lot of things going on, not much happens. So Director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Kalifornia) opts to backfill these moments with gratuitous explosions, violence, car chases, and in one instance, Halle Berry's breasts (her first nude scene, and a completely unnecessary one at that).

There is too much plot in Skip Woods' (Thursday) script. He so overplots Swordfish that, paradoxically, nothing emerges. Everybody has a hidden agenda, and is not who he/she appears to be. Also, trying to instill a sense of credibility into the characters' use of computers makes things overly complicated. Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman, Someone Like You, X-Men) is an ex-hacker recently out of prison. He has a Kevin Mitnick-like sentence, where he cannot even touch a computer. Ginger (Berry, X-Men, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) recruits him to help Gabriel Shear (Travolta) hack into a forgotten DEA slush fund worth nearly ten billion dollars. The only reason that Jobson agrees to help is for the enormous sum of money Shear will provide him with. The money will allow Jobson to fund a lawsuit to regain custody of his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife and her new husband, the "porn king of Southern California." Uh, okay. Ginger may be Shear's girlfriend, or she may be a DEA agent. Shear is a complete mystery. One character (a hacker named Torvalds-get it? get it?) proclaims that he lives what people only dream of. Typical grandstanding for Travolta, who has a goofy looking haircut and goatee. Don Cheadle (Traffic, The Family Man) is also on hand as an FBI agent on the trail of Jobson, although he doesn't really do anything else.

Woods and Sena spend so much time trying to formulate conspiracies and twists that some of the basic points become ridiculous. First, Jobson has a pretty good chance in court of winning custody of his daughter. He served his time, is following parole, and IS NOT MAKING PORN. Shear's plot to steal the money is much too flamboyant and obvious. It also appears fairly easy. If a hacker who has not touched a computer for a couple years can come up with a program in what looks to be a day, what is stopping lesser hackers from doing the same thing in a couple days? What was the point of having a woman, uh, orally service Jobson while he tries to hack into the DOD? Why are FBI agents driving LAPD police cars? Swordfish begins at the end of the movie, setting up a huge special effects sequence, then flashes back four days in time to the beginning of the story. There was no real reason to do this except to keep the audience awake, since the story takes a while to get moving.

Still, that final effects sequence is impressive. Shear straps bombs and ball bearings onto people, making them extra deadly if they were to explode. The final car chase leads to an air chase, with all sorts of things blowing up and people dying in new and interesting ways. It actually takes a while, and manages to hold on to its energy and momentum for the duration. It looks great, but really serves no ulterior purpose. Paul Oakenfold is by far the best off in Swordfish. He is an internationally renowned DJ still looking for respect in the United States. His thumping soundtrack is a good complement to the numerous action sequences. Everything else nears pointlessness.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity.

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