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HD-DVD Review: Swordfish

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Ridiculous, campy, laughable, and tons of fun, Swordfish is wildly enjoyable in a mind numbingly implausible sense. It’s impossible not to have a good time with twisting plot, inventive ending, and incredible visual flair. You’ll be hard pressed to find a movie that tries so hard to entertain everyone.

Opening with an explosion unlike any other put on film, Swordfish wastes little time in getting the audience involved. Hugh Jackman is a hard sell as an outcast computer hacker, bribed by a group of brutal madmen who believe killing is the only possible away to strike back at America’s enemies. John Travolta is flawless in his typical “evil guy” spot, the style of villain you love to hate with his happy demeanor and calmness under intense pressure.

Computer talk is barren, and director Dominic Sena does what he can to make typing at a keyboard visually interesting. Striking color permeates the film, adding to the high tech feel. A twisted sense of humor will help Swordfish find a home to the right audience.

Action scenes aim for a style first, logic later tone. Cars explode, guns never run out of ammo, half the people shooting couldn’t hit Shaquille O’Neal if he was in point blank range, and the set ups are even worse. The film’s finale is a classic of the Hollywood train of thought, with enemy making their escape in a passenger bus being lifted over the city in a helicopter, taking buildings and civilians with them.

This over-the-top sense nicely pads scenes that take place between the stunt filled action. Dialogue is sharp, and requires a few viewings to grasp the best lines. There’s little here that’s original as far as the core elements, but the way they’re presented and actors taking the job make it work.

Swordfish is the type of film thrown out there for a summer movie audience looking to take in a quick action/low on thought thriller loaded with mega explosions and a great villain. It’s nearly perfect in that sense. While it will likely be remembered more for gratuitously showcasing Halle Berry in a new way, there’s enough substance here to have a great movie night.

Swordfish comes to HD-DVD in grand form. The heavy color saturation is simply gorgeous on this format, though it pays for it with some noticeable compression artifacts when the reds stick around. There’s a fine layer of grain littering the backgrounds as well. In most scenes however, it’s not even noticeable nearly bringing this transfer to the level of perfection. Black levels are stunning in their richness.

Likewise, the audio presentation is brutal. Bass is to the point of becoming overpowering, drowning out other portions of the sound with sheer force. Movement is captured flawlessly in all channels. Surround use is aggressive and consistent through all action sequences.

Extras are lax, ported from the SD-DVD version. A director’s commentary discusses just about every aspect of the shoot, including the struggle to film the flying bus sequence. The latter is also given a separate feature that runs for eight minutes, giving behind the scenes footage of the multiple stages used to piece the bus together.

HBO First Look is a 15 minute commercial, while In Conversation is a fun, general sit down interview with some of the stars as they divulge information from the set. Two alternate endings have rough audio that makes them difficult to hear, and the creators made the right call to keep the proper finish in the film. Finally, a music video rounds off this set.

Swordfish made its theatrical debut on June 8, 2001. It was pulled immediately following the September 11 attack. A sequence involving an exploding building was the cause.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for His current passion project is the technically minded You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.