You’re probably tired of seeing every last artifact of pop culture found wanting in light of the post-9/11 new-world disorder. In the case of Swordfish, though, a rethink/recoil is damn near unavoidable. Here’s an action thriller that starts with a screaming hostage exploding and taking dozens of police officers with her; that literally lynches its black costar for cheap suspense; and that depicts a skyscraper meeting which ends in flaming death. That the specific item crashing through the windows is an airborne bus is meant to prompt disbelieving laughter. Maybe it did, once.
What else does director Dominic Sena deliver? John Travolta back in ”Pulp Fiction” drag as an evil terrorist mastermind. ”X-Men”’s Hugh Jackman as an absurdly buff genius computer hacker. Halle Berry’s nipples, making their film debut (strictly for artistic purposes). Bogus movie Internet jargon. And an ersatz indie-flick grit that rapidly dissipates into mindless stunt work. It’s precisely the pleasure ”Swordfish” takes in blowing things up that relegates it to a little boy’s world that no longer exists; that Travolta’s character turns out to be on our side against global terrorism now plays as adolescent wish fulfillment. Isn’t it painful to revisit toys from childhood?