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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Travolta's fishy hit
Halle Berry, John Travolta and Hugh Jackman
Swordfish features a $9.5bn computer heist
Computer hacking drama Swordfish, which opens in the UK on Friday, sees John Travolta in Pulp Fiction mode.

He delivers a cocky analysis of the movie Dog Day Afternoon straight to camera, including a sneering critique of Hollywood itself.

It is an exhilarating moment, full of a promise that is never quite fulfilled by this cyber-thriller - the latest outing by The Matrix and Lethal Weapon master-producer Joel Silver.

Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman
Ginger lures Stanley with a promise of loot
After the box-office and critical flop of Battlefield Earth, 47-year-old Travolta needed a status-restoring hit.

But he claimed at the film's UK launch that such things do not bother him.

"It's the saddest fact - it wasn't until I got hired for Pulp Fiction that I even had an awareness that I had cooled off," Travolta said of his career revival in Quentin Tarantino's cult hit.

Unconventional

In Swordfish, which is already a box-office hit in the US, Travolta plays Gabriel Shear, a misguided patriot who masterminds a global bank raid in order to finance his violent forays into international "peace-keeping".

John Travolta and Hugh Jackman
Travolta with Jackman before the Australian premiere
Producer Silver says they wanted to make a film that was out of the ordinary.

"We had to fight very hard with the studio to get the unconventional aspects of the movie made," he says.

Travolta's opening scene may well have raised temperatures amongst studio bosses but there is little else that could be labelled contentious.

No sooner has Gabriel completed his movie review and expounded on "the trouble with Hollywood" when the action-rush that is Swordfish begins.

Hostages who have been converted to human land mines get panicky and within minutes a massive explosion hits the screen, flinging bodies, cars and sheets of glass every which way.

According to the director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds) the special effects involved in such a celluloid spasm are exactly what the audience wants.

"In America at the end of the first special effect they actually stood and applauded - they didn't take it literally, they were applauding the concept of this unusual, innovative film-making," he says.

But more unusual than the explosions is the character played by Travolta.

Gabriel, in cahoots with a power-crazed US senator (Sam Shepard), plans to uphold "American freedoms" by striking back at terrorists, Mafioso style.

Vinnie Jones
Lock, Stock star Vinnie Jones also appears in Swordfish
Swordfish turns out to be a codename for a stash of billions in government funds protected by computer walls in banks around the world.

Moral foil

The movie takes us on a bumpy ride through Gabriel's hiring of computer hacker extraordinaire Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) to help him get the cash.

Jobson takes the job only because he also needs money - to regain custody of his daughter, who is currently billeted with her porn-star mother and her scurrilous new husband.

The long-suffering father is set up as a foil to the ruthless Gabriel, though this is no moral drama.

No, jaw-dropping action is what Swordfish is about, sexed up for good measure by Gabriel's side-kick Ginger, played by Halle Berry.

Berry was paid a substantial bonus for appearing (fleetingly) topless in the movie.

Nudity

The Bulworth actress says she had reservations about doing it.

Certainly it is difficult to see how it was essential to the plot, but in the end she agreed to the extra exposure.

"I see them all the time, I'm comfortable naked, I really am. I think it was a lot harder for Hugh on that day," she says with a smile.

John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry
Stanley makes his way through impossible computer tests
In spite of the action and nudity it is difficult to make a film based on computer hacking look interesting.

Hacking is a sport for one and watching it - even accompanied by a trendy soundtrack, explosions-on-demand and Halle Berry's bosom - is not exactly compelling.

Even the stars and makers of the films could not muster much enthusiasm for computers.

Director Sena admitted to being computer savvy rather than literate, while Berry gamely explained she had her "very own" website.

Jackman said he was impressed with the real-life computer expert who advised on the film, but he had to own that he was performing "Elton John" movements in his scenes.

And Travolta put the final boot into the concept of computer thrills.

"I am not computer literate because I haven't found out the reason to be yet, " he said without a trace of shame.

Swordfish opens on 27 July

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC News Online's Jayne Douglas
"He had no idea his career was starting to falter"
See also:

14 May 01 | Film
Travolta fishes for film hit
11 May 00 | Entertainment
Film star Berry escapes jail
25 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Vinnie picked for Travolta movie
13 May 00 | Entertainment
Travolta's critical battlefield
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Travolta leads Raspberries race
12 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Cool Spacey wins the day
11 Jun 01 | Film
Pearl Harbor sunk by Swordfish
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