Friday, July 23, 2010

Hollywood Bites Reviews: Salt

The curse of the reshoots continues.

The Last Airbender, Wolverine, Jonah Hex; they all went through major reshoots and still managed to be dreadful. Now you can add another film to that Hall of Shame, Angelina Jolie’s spy thriller Salt, a film so laughably awful, at a recent screening the audience went from minorly chuckling during the film’s climax to downright guffawing at its implausibility.

Salt is about Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative who goes on the lam after she’s accused of being a KGB sleeper agent in a scene that involves the most laborious exposition filmgoers have suffered in a very long while. Given everything that’s gone on in the news recently, you’d think that would be a boon for the film. But Kurt Wimmer’s script, filled the Cold War references, feels tragically dated, as though it had been fished out of a desk two and a half decades too late and the producers paid good money to make sure the New York Times and Wall Street Journal made Russian spies news again just before the film’s release.

Director Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Sliver) fills his frames with obvious nods to the movie’s subject matter, such as in an interrogation room where a half dozen reflections curve behind the action, the equivalent of a cinematographer, in this case Robert Elswit, shouting, “These people are layered! They might not be who you think they are! See. See. There’s multiples of them!” Other times, Elswit, whose previous work includes The Will Be Blood and Good Night and Good Luck, allows his camera to drop in and out of POV shots, including one shaky steadicam shot from a dog’s eye view. Do you blame the guy with multiple Oscars (Elswit) or the man whose last good movie was 2002’s Rabbit Proof Fence (Noyce) for that embarrassingly bad choice?


Speaking of decisions that are less than wise, while Jolie was once Hollywood’ go-to girl for bad ass chick roles, the Oscar winner looks vacant and wane this time around as she listlessly goes through the motions she delivered with verve in Tomb Raider, Wanted and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Perhaps she realized she was in unsteady hands (probably right around the time she saw herself “disguised” as a man in one of the most hilariously implausible scenes) and decided to phone her performance in.

Noisy action sequences are little match for such a ridiculously plotted and poorly acted movie. Even in the summer, when escapism is the goal, Salt is an unwitting comedy that’s meant to be laughed at, not with.

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