Swordfish (2001)
Warner Home Video
Cast: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentaries, Alternate Endings, Theatrical Trailer, Talent Profiles

Despite some saying that John Travolta’s comeback never quite reached it’s peak and that the recovering heartthrob was again slipping into the same obscurity that threatened to fully engulf him in the 1980’s, I say this guy’s just reaching his prime. While ‘Swordfish, ’ the latest Travolta vehicle that contended as another of the Summer ’01 bombastic blockbusters, lacked plot development and identity, its suave and steely leading man makes this high-tech thriller worthy of a viewing (or two).

Travolta plays Gabriel Shear, a self-proclaimed patriot who’s enigmatic style and behavior gives cause to question whether he’s acting as an anti-terrorist (as he asserts) or is merely an ambitious bank robber intent upon electronically heisting $9 billion from a secret DEA slush resulting from the defunct Operation Swordfish. To pull of the job, he sends his curvaceous assistant (Halle Berry) to secure ex-felon and renowned hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman). Knowing Jobson is desperately trying to reclaim custody of his young daughter, Gabriel offers Stanley $10 million dollars to code an elaborate worm virus (a Hydra) that will effectively infiltrate the DEA system, retrieve the loot, and destroy all residual evidence. Of course, with a plot as straightforward as that, the film would likely only last about 25 minutes. Therefore, the story swings wildly around the characters’ multiple identities as seemingly everyone is some sort of double- or triple-agent. The action climaxes in a desperate hostage standoff complete with human claymore bombs, a getaway bus that is airlifted across the L.A. skyline, and an explosive rooftop confrontation.

I honestly expected to be let down by this picture but found myself, instead, enjoying it for what it is: a popcorn-pic that’s visually entertaining with a very captivating performance from Travolta. Especially enjoyable are Gabriel’s reference to genre films of the past and his liberal jabs at the formulaic Hollywood movie-making machine of today (wickedly ironic in that such statements serve as wry self-deprecation from the get-go). Yes, this picture is quite derivative of many action pix before it, but who cares? Not every film made needs to challenge the intellect, tug at the soul, or unlock the mysteries of life. Sometimes it’s fun just to watch things blow up. On that level, ‘Swordfish’ delivers mightily.

With this DVD, Warner Brothers again proves they have nearly perfected the recipe for delivering top-notch quality in the medium. Presented in a stunning anamorphic widescreen format, this one offers a striking image quality with richly saturated colors (most notable are the greens and ambers that suggest that all-too-familiar monochromatic glow of a CDT) not to mention the deep black levels and crisp detail. Though a couple of the city-scape scenes exhibit a bit of shimmering, there’s nothing much to complain about here thanks to the faithful transfer from an incredibly clean source print.

The audio roars into the viewing area and aggressively surrounds you thanks to a very active 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The 360-degree explosion sequence at the beginning of the film will literally rain lethal ball-bearings all around you. The LFE channel gets an ample workout thanks to the many in-your-face explosions as well as the pounding techno score. Through it all, the dialog rings clear and understandable. Clearly, no one in the house will sleep through this ear-candy.

The extras here include an generally engaging and informative commentary by director Dominic Sena. There’s also two documentaries – ‘HBO First Look: The Making of Swordfish’ and ‘The Effects in Focus’ – which are adequate yet not overly generous in content. There are a couple of alternate endings, a theatrical trailer, and the usual cast & crew profiles and DVD-ROM content. Plus, there are several Easter Eggs nestled within, too. A reasonable offering of bonus goodies, I suppose.

In all, ‘Swordfish’ achieves it’s purpose as an eye- and ear-dazzling Summer flick. And while it’s plot attempts to overachieve to its own detriment, it’s still reasonably entertaining action fare. Most enjoyable here, though, are Travolta and the booming audio tracks. Crank this one up, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the ride.