Swordfish is a 2001 American action crime thriller film directed by Dominic Sena and starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones and Sam Shepard. The film centers on Stanley Jobson, an ex-con and computer hacker who is targeted for recruitment into a bank robbery conspiracy because of his formidable hacking skills. The film was a slight box office success but was negatively received by critics upon release.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dominic Sena|
|Produced by||Joel Silver
Jonathan D. Krane
|Written by||Skip Woods|
|Music by||Christopher Young
|Edited by||Stephen E. Rivkin|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$147.1 million|
Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a highly skilled computer hacker. Having served time for infecting the FBI's Carnivore program with a computer virus, he is now on parole but forbidden from using computers. His alcoholic ex-wife Melissa (Drea de Matteo), who married a rich porn producer and is currently a part-time porn actress, has sole custody over their daughter Holly and a restraining order preventing him from visiting their daughter. One day, he is solicited by Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry), speaking for her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), for his hacking skills. He goes to meet Gabriel in Los Angeles, where he is put on the spot to crack a secure government server within a minute while simultaneously held at gunpoint and receiving fellatio. When he succeeds, Gabriel offers Stanley $10 million to program a multi-headed worm, a "hydra", to siphon $9.5 billion from several government slush funds.
Stanley begins work, learning that Gabriel leads Black Cell, a secret group created by J. Edgar Hoover to launch retaliatory attacks against terrorists that threaten the United States. He also privately discovers Ginger is a DEA agent working undercover, and further is surprised to discover a corpse that looks like Gabriel. He goes to see Holly home from school but finds he is being followed by FBI agent J.T. Roberts (Don Cheadle), who had previously caught Stanley. Roberts, though monitoring Stanley closely, is more interested in Gabriel as he does not appear on any government database, and after learning that another hacker, Axl Torvalds (Rudolf Martin), had been killed by Gabriel's men, warns Stanley to be cautious. Stanley opts to secretly code a back door in his hydra that reverses the money transfer after a short period. Meanwhile, Senator Reisman (Sam Shepard), who oversees Black Cell, learns the FBI has started tracking Gabriel and orders him to stand down. Gabriel refuses, and narrowly avoids an assassination attempt ordered by Reisman. Gabriel personally kills Reisman in revenge and continues his plan.
Stanley delivers the hydra to Gabriel and leaves to see Holly, only to find that Gabriel has killed Melissa and her husband and kidnapped Holly, framing Stanley. Stanley has no choice but to participate in the bank heist to get Holly back. Gabriel and his men storm a Worldbanc branch, and secure its employees and customers as hostages, fitting each with ball-bearing-based explosives similar to Claymore mines. When police and FBI surround the branch, Gabriel takes Stanley to the coffee shop across the street to meet with Roberts, but Gabriel spends the time to discuss the film Dog Day Afternoon and the nature of misdirection. Once back in the bank, Gabriel has one of his men escort a hostage to demonstrate the situation. A sniper kills the man, and other agents pull the hostage away from the bank, causing the bomb to detonate, ravaging the buildings and vehicles on the street and killing several people, a scene shown in medias res at the start of the film.
Gabriel instructs Stanley to launch the hydra, and turns Holly over to him once completed. However, Stanley's back door triggers before they can leave the bank, and Stanley is recaptured while Holly is rescued. Gabriel threatens to kill Ginger, who he knows is a DEA agent, unless Stanley re-siphons the money back to a Monte Carlo bank. Despite doing so, Gabriel shoots Ginger. Gabriel and his men load the hostages on a bus and demand a plane wait for them at the local airport, but while en route, the bus is lifted off by a S-64 Aircrane and deposited on the roof of a local skyscraper. Gabriel deactivates the bombs and departs with his surviving men on a waiting helicopter, which Stanley shoots down using a rocket-propelled grenade from the bus.
Roberts takes Stanley to verify the corpse they found, believing Gabriel was a Mossad agent while there was no record of a DEA agent named Ginger. Stanley recognizes the corpse as the one he discovered earlier and personally realizes that the whole scenario was misdirection. The Police still cannot find Ginger's corpse. Gabriel had escaped a different route, and Ginger had been wearing a bulletproof vest and was working with Gabriel all along. Stanley does not tell Police that Gabriel & Ginger are still alive. Roberts arranges for Stanley to have full custody of Holly, and the two tour the US together. In Monte Carlo, Gabriel and Ginger withdraw the money, and later watch as a yacht at sea explodes. Over the film's credits, a news report describes the destruction of the yacht, carrying a known terrorist, as the third such incident in as many weeks.
The film received a great deal of press initially because it featured Halle Berry's first topless scene. She was paid an extra $500,000 on top of her $2 million fee to appear topless in this film. Critics said the scene looked forced, thrown into the film just to garner press. Berry said she did the topless scene, knowing it was gratuitous, to overcome the fear of appearing nude onscreen.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 26%, with site's critical consensus reading, "Swordfish is big on explosions, but critics dislike how it skimps on plot and logic. Also, the sight of a person typing at a computer just isn't that interesting." In a review for The New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote:
|“||With its blasé blend of bogus international intrigue and action-for-action's-sake, Swordfish suggests a James Bond movie stripped of humor. True, there are a few moments of wit, like the opening sequence. But the dominant tone masquerading as humor is a snide, rancid nihilism devoid of laughs, unless wholesale destruction and gloating stupidity are what tickle your funny bone.||”|
According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed over $147 million in worldwide box office receipts on a production budget of $102 million. John Travolta's performance in the film earned him a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor (also for Domestic Disturbance).
The DVD version contains an alternate ending wherein Ginger is told in the bank that the account is already almost empty, alluding to the possibility that Stanley has played one final trick on them and taken the money himself. When Ginger tells Gabriel about this, he takes it in stride and asks her to join him on a trip to Istanbul. In a companion scene to the alternate ending, Stanley is shown on a trip with his daughter in a brand new RV. While eating at a diner, Stanley is shown transferring billions of dollars to various charities before continuing his trip.
The soundtrack for Swordfish was produced by Paul Oakenfold, under Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. and distributed through London Sire Records, Inc. It contains 15 tracks. The film's orchestral score was written by Christopher Young with several electronic additions by Paul Oakenfold. Fragments from the score were added to the official soundtrack, but were remixed by Oakenfold. A more complete release was issued as an award promo, which is known for its rarity.