Saturday, July 31, 2010

Movie with Abe: Salt

Directed by Phillip Noyce
Released July 23, 2010

Action movies often don’t emphasize story. Sometimes it’s not important at all, and other times it’s just not the priority of a big studio production to make sense and tie all of its threads together. Effort would be better spent on crafting cool action scenes and presenting its characters in various states of undress. While it’s possibly to have both awesome action and sensible storylines, it’s extremely rare. One friend describes Angelina Jolie’s not-as-loud-as-you’d-think blockbuster “Salt” as a poor man’s “Bourne Identity.” That line of thinking is on the right track since Jolie’s CIA agent Evelyn Salt seems like a pale rip-off of Jason Bourne, but the criticism is much too kind. “Salt” is easily one of the worst, most miserable movies of the year so far.

It’s not that there wasn’t potential for “Salt.” Some movies start out without anything going for them, and their failures are less regrettable since there wasn’t much hope from the beginning. Yet “Salt” has a major movie star who has effectively anchored popcorn flicks like the “Tomb Raider” films and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” She was unbelievably sleek and totally perfect for her role as Fox in 2008’s fast-paced “Wanted.” Now she’s back with another ridiculous name, and somehow, like Austin Powers, she’s lost all of her mojo. It’s a flat performance from an Oscar-winning actress who got nominated again for her great turn two years ago in Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” but that’s not the most lamentable part. Her long, lanky arms and foolish goth-dyed hair make her an awkward spy who doesn’t handle any of her fight scenes well at all. The mystery is that she’s done this before – and done it well, so why does she flop this time?

Perhaps the script and setup are more to blame here than the bizarrely incompetent Jolie. This is like a bee’s hive for spy clichés, and the movie nearly drowns in them. It’s hard to take any government agency seriously that lapses on security so much that it escorts a prisoner without handcuffs and leaves another in an interrogation room with a cell phone. Fear not; these aren’t major spoilers. They’re simply devastatingly mind-numbing plot holes that come near the start of the film. By an hour in, the film has lost any trace of sense, inserting a number of twists that can’t be explained away by anything approaching logic. The 100-minute mark brings an all-too-delayed, even more preposterous and incomprehensible conclusion that should put audiences out of their misery. The action scenes are boring and tired, so there’s really nothing worth checking out in this whole movie. Originally, Tom Cruise was supposed to play the part of Salt before being replaced by Jolie. Even if Cruise isn’t the best actor in the business, he had the good sense to focus on and perform commendably in great action scenes in his film from this summer, the far superior “Knight and Day.” It’s a real shame that he didn’t leave any of the fun behind for the person who took over for him.



Greg Boyd said...

I think you and I have very different criteria for an F, which is why I doubt this film would receive one if I saw it (I don't plan to). For me, an F denotes a movie that is irreedemably terrible. Meaning that it has nothing, nothing in it worth checking out. Therefore, just as I give out very few A grades when I'm reviewing, I also give out even less Fs.

Example: I hate the movie "Forrest Gump" with a passion. I think it's hideous, convoluted, and just plain stupid (I realize that many disagree, but that's my opinion). However, objectively I realize that there are some good things about it (the shrimp boat stuff in particular). Therefore, it doesn't merit an F. I'd go with a D, maybe a C-.

What movies have merited this grade? Just a few that I've seen (thankfully). Last year's woeful "Paranormal Activity" would be one. I can safely say that there was nothing worth seeing in that movie. Another would be a film that a lot of people love, but one that I personally despise: "Field of Dreams".

Typically, if there's even one decent performance or one well-written scene, that's enough to bump a film (or anything else) up from an F to a D- or D. If you hand out too many Fs, I believe it defeats the purpose of giving a movie one (which is of course to say "stay away at all costs"). But then again, "Salt" may indeed be that bad. Or you may have different criteria. But for me, an F is for the absolute lowest of the low: the "Paranormal Activities" of the world.

Movies with Abe said...

No, I think this is the one grade-related thing on which we do agree!

I don't think there was anything redeeming about "Salt." If I indicated otherwise in my review, it was only in reference to what I had hoped I would find. If I do find a redeeming quality, I bump it up to a D or a C-, as you do as well.