Back before computer and cyber-hacking was the kind of thing folks would use to steal your personal identity or even shut down oil pipelines, we got a movie about a dude who was the best hacker out there and looked pretty good doing it. In fact, everyone around him looked great as well and the hacking part became mostly secondary. One of those faces was Halle Berry who got the movie a little more publicity but for a totally different reason, outside of the main plot. Now you can check out the film Swordfish which hit Netflix at the beginning of the month.
Swordfish is a beginning-of-the-2000s movie through and through which picks up when we meet Stanley Jobson, played by a pre-Wolverine Hugh Jackman, who was the greatest computer hacker of his generation but has relegated to the off-web sidelines after getting busted by the FBI. But he’s about to be sucked back into the game when Halle Berry shows up at his doorstep with an offer. She works for a powerful guy who wants Stanley back at a keyboard. Sure, his court-ordered punishment is such that he can’t touch a computer, but nobody seems to care about that all that much.
The movie follows somewhat predictable head-faking throughout the plot. Halle Berry as Ginger takes Stanley to meet with our, possible, antagonist Gabriel Shear played by a menacing possible government agent or possible terrorist, it isn’t totally clear. What is clear is the guy loves to get into the exposition if it’s going to mean extending the scene. It’s a very Travolta-esque performance throughout. The plan is simple: he needs Jobson to create a computer malware program or worm to infiltrate the government finances and siphon off a few billion dollars from their coffers. Check out the trailer for Swordfish:
Swordfish has everything you’d want out of this era of action movies. There’s the beginning, very loose understanding of how the internet works, meaning we can have tag lines like “Log On” as part of the action because that seemed super cool. There are nightclubs and yachts, private parties and sports cars, you know, all the things we think of when we picture the modern-day computer hacker, And then, of course, there’s Halle Berry who is stripping down throughout. Is she a terrorist? A DEA agent? A double-crosser? A triple-crosser? Does it even really matter?
Swordfish was a big deal at the time it came out for a number of different reasons. A big cast, massive budget, slick feel, and loose grip about how the public perceived computer systems meant for a lot of ways the movie could take things. But it also made headlines because this was the first time Halle Berry appeared topless in a movie. She was reportedly paid an extra $500,000 to do the scene which amounted to a quick moment of sunbathing. Did it have any place in the film? Not really, but the publicity was “good”.
In addition to Hugh Jackman, John Travolta, and Halle Berry, Swordfish had some other notables including Don Cheadle as an FBI agent assigned to track what’s happening with this group, Sam Shepard as a corrupt Senator, and Drea de Matteo as Stanley’s deadbeat ex-wife. The film was directed by Dominic Sena who had just come off doing Gone in 60 Seconds, another glossy film that glorified stealing cars like this one does hacking databases.
Despite the Halle Berry topless scene or maybe because of it, Swordfish was mostly panned by critics, sitting at 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and 32 on Metacritic. Even at the time, it was recognized for what it was, a silly film that plays loosely with reality while high stylizing everything in the world to keep a feeling of “cool”. And at the box office it mostly came up short, earning *only* $147 million on its $102 million budget.
That being said, there’s a place for a corny film like this one. Is there any reality at all behind it? Nope. Is it overacted and over the top? Of course. But that’s kind of the point and from this perspective, there’s some fun to be had. Getting Hugh Jackman, John Travolta, and Halle Berry together for some shootouts, bank robberies, sunbathing, speedboats, helicopters, computer hacking, and explosions does make for a flick you can unintentionally laugh at now. There’s a certain nostalgia, such as it were, for movies like this.
Next up for Halle Berry is Moonfall which will have her in a race against time before the Moon crash lands into Earth. And then there’s Mothership in which she and her family find an alien artifact under their farm. So it’s all sci-fi for the actress coming down the pike. In the meantime, check her out in Swordfish on Netflix.