Angelina Jolie kicks ass! Angelina Jolie chucks hand grenades! Angelina Jolie doesn't adopt any kids or grimace with Brad Pitt! There you go; that's essentially what happens in Salt. Apparently Tom Cruise dropped out of the project and the filmmakers rewrote this Salt thing for Jolie. Too bad, when a movie is this awful you sort of expect someone like Cruise to be in it. It used to be that when a plot was so luridly far-fetched it was a bad thing, but now we've been subjected to so much pedestrian crap that expectations have shifted. Opening up the potential floodgates with a PG-13 rating, mainstream filmmakers churn this stuff out and people unquestioningly accept it.
The opening scene of North Korean torture bestowed on a scantily clad Jolie showed some promise, but then we jump to two years later, joining the film's key concept that Russian sleeper spies still exist in the U.S. long after the fall of the Soviet Union, and are waiting for their day of attack. These sleeper cells are going to kill the presidents of both the U.S. and Russia. CIA Agent Salt (Jolie) is implicated and goes on the run, bringing her guilt or innocence into question. Her hi-tech escape is eminent as the film's long winded chase and wannabe chess game does its darndest to keep us guessing about her status until the end, but by the finale I was past caring. Bullets fly, people get shot, moles are exposed, shit blows up, and Salt jumps off overpasses and bounces off semi-trucks. I figure I have seen this movie either seven or 750 times, I can't remember... the list to choose from is endless: Mission Impossible, Patriot Games, Bourne Identity, Manchurian Candidate, Taken, all the James Bonds and Die Hards and all things espionage and lame, including a very similar yet dark and serious take on Cruise's recent Knight and Day.
One explanation for the déj vu is that Director Phillip Noyce has helmed past excursions into action filmmaking, most notably the clearly present and dangerous-Harrison Ford-as-Jack Ryan flicks. To his credit, as preposterous as the action was, Noyce keeps the stunts and car crashes real using minimal CGI gimmickry. The problem was that it looked like boring slow motion. The oomph in any action scene is a cushiony blow to the chin because we've seen it all before. Salt gives us the requisite predictable dialogue, hackneyed plot, myriad of disguises and leg-revealing outfits. The dialogue was as lame as it gets, including a tepid screenplay with a meaningless twist and no time spent developing any characters.
We know, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Wanted, that Jolie is the go-to girl for tough-chick ass kicking. But this movie is too lackadaisical and immature to have such prolific talent doing the chores. I'm sure most audiences will give it a pass because of Jolie's sexy leg swinging antics.
Although blatantly impossible to accept on almost any level, Salt had some funny lazy filmmaking moments, such as a knife-in-the-shoe scene that was so stupid it belonged in a Get Smart episode. In a "blink-and-miss-it" scene, you can actually see a male Salt body double with sunglasses on a motorcycle, before it cuts to Jolie sans eyewear at a different speed. Salt does a quick gallop through a biker bar called "Jugs and Stroker's" that made me laugh. And in one stroke of ingenuity, during a car chase the handcuffed-in-the back seat Salt gratuitously Tasers an unconscious cop at the wheel of the police car to keep jerking his foot to the accelerator.
As ridiculous as this movie is, there's no doubt that the female action genre belongs to Jolie. Now if the tabloids would leave her alone and she could just stop adopting children, that persona would come off without a hitch.
Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by Phillip Noyce