Most actors’ careers are characterized by various hits and misses, but few to such an extreme extent as John Travolta, who is typically seen in either enduring classics or risible garbage. And one of his rare average offerings, 2001 action movie Swordfish, is now available on Netflix.
The film revolves around hacker Stanley (Hugh Jackman), who’s hired by former Mossad agent Gabriel (Travolta) and cohort Ginger (Halle Berry) to create a complex worm to siphon billions of dollars from U.S. government slush funds. Over the course of his work, though, he comes to realize that he isn’t being told the whole truth of Gabriel and Ginger’s motivations, and that there are far larger forces at play than he understands.
Upon its release, the pic was mostly notable for being Jackman’s first starring role after Wolverine catapulted him into the spotlight like a fastball special, as well as a more than a little sleazy focus on one scene in which his X-Men co-star Berry appears topless. John Travolta, meanwhile, was still trying to shake off the hostile reception received by the notoriously atrocious Battlefield Earth that undid all the goodwill he had built up during the ‘90s, but a performance that zigzags between genially affable and psychotically ruthless gives mixed messages of how audiences are supposed to react to him.
Swordfish is one of a number of hacking-oriented tales that make it clear that those involved have no idea how the craft actually works, but seem to be under the impression that it somehow transforms computers from digital information processors to omnipotent magical wands of circuitry that can achieve anything their users desire. If you can look past the daft 3D visualizations included to counter that there’s little exciting about watching someone typing at a keyboard, the movie isn’t too bad, and you can certainly do a lot worse if you’re looking for a distraction.