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Overall Rating
3.38

Awesome: 5.13%
Worth A Look56.41%
Just Average: 12.82%
Pretty Crappy: 23.08%
Sucks: 2.56%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings


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Salt (2010)
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by Erik Childress

"More Impostor Than Minority Report"
2 stars

Salt is an action-thriller that is better made than most of what passes in the genre these days, but it is also about eight times as dumb. This is the yin-and-yang paradigm that Philip Noyce's film bolts its way through without giving a second thought to the wild inconsistencies and cliched script twitches that fail it. On one hand it races from one act to the next with seemingly never-ending set pieces but sacrifices such logic in the face of an already anitquated notion of Cold War intrigue that our faith in being able to just sit back and dismiss it all is repeatedly challenged. And because Salt takes itself with the poker face seriousness of the Bourne pictures only serves to make it more laughable.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is first seen being beaten and tortured inside a Korean jail cell repeating that she is "not a spy." Of course she is. For the U.S.A. She is only saved by her captives thanks to a spy swap supervised by her friend and superior, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and manufactured thanks to the dilligent love of her bug expert husband, Mike (August Diehl). Two years later on the eve of their anniversary, a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski) walks into CIA headquarters in New York claiming to have intelligence for asylum here. He tells a wild story about Soviet children trained at a very young age to become plants in our country and activated for duty sometime in their adult life. One of these children is here now to assassinate the Russian president and her name is Evelyn Salt.

Another department agent, Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) believes these mole tales and insists on getting to the bottom of these accusations immediately. Salt doesn't take too lightly to being detained again and manages a desperate escape from lockdown to get back to her husband. Claiming she is being set-up, Salt goes on the run. Discovering that Mike has gone missing, she mounts a plan to be front and center for the arrival of the Russian president. But are her plans honorable or is Salt really not who she claims to be?

Posing that question with a lead character is a tricky proposition and even trickier to discuss here without introducing spoiler alerts. With Richard Kimble in The Fugitive we were clued into his innocence immediately. John Anderton in Minority Report was in the unique position of being accused of a crime not yet committed, but he was a character we got to know pretty thoroughly before he began running and it was hard to believe he was capable of it. (Tom Cruise was originally attached to star as Edwin Salt and probably wisely dropped out as the comparisons to Spielberg's film would run rampant.) We know very little about Evelyn Salt prior to the chase's starting gun, so we must be open to the possibility that a big twist is headed our direction to divert our expectations. When we are jerked one way fairly early on, it is unreasonable to expect that the final solution to this puzzle has been unveiled. Knowledgable filmgoers know this to be a fact and, by now, it should not require a spoiler alert to be aware to never trust someone trying to help the hero and that their chief adversary will eventually come around.

Aware that this machinations are slowly working their way towards their third act payoffs, their starkness to the surrounding absurdity only frustrates our involvement even more. Kurt Wimmer (Law-Abiding Citizen, Ultraviolet) has outlined a screenplay where we are to believe that a foreign spy operation would go through the trouble of marching right into the Lion's Den to enact a day (or two) of espionage so intricate that it makes their Lee Harvey Oswald plan seem positively Jack Ruby-ish. Decades of training also apparently is dependent on our CIA looking like a bunch of Gomer Pyles, Barney Fifes and Maxwell Smarts all rolled into one. Instead of properly restraining, searching or utilizing metal detector technology on the one guy who admits to being involved in Cold War conspiracies, they are so consumed with keeping one of their star agents from leaving that they allow easy escapes for both of them. (There is not a single shot explaining how Salt gets out of the interrogation room.)

This is just the tip of the melting iceberg of credibility that Wimmer allows for his big coup d'etat and there is nothing to suggest that the filmmakers didn't just soldier on to take everything as gravely as possible. You may be laughing at the defector's wild tale (which could almost replace the opening montage of JFK without missing a beat) but this is more Wimmer's attempt at cramming in as much exposition upfront when some of it could have been easily deployed through Salt's pursuers actually doing a little homework. As Peabody is getting all his vital intel through text messages, it wouldn't be surprising if an ordinary citizen like Michael Caine's Alfred from the Batman films is doing the legwork and feeding him the results. If Noyce and Wimmer had switched gears a little to engage us in a satire of our country's twitchiness since 9/11 we may have been more accepting of some of its more outrageous leaps. It certainly would have explained how the slightest of perceived threats against our president immediately translates into authenticating our nuclear launch codes. Thankfully our silos still appear to operate on the same servers invented during the Cold War and allows ample time for the plot to catch up with itself and allow the real bad guys to explain their methodology.

The fault lies not with Angelina Jolie who has been stuck in some pretty lackluster action flicks from the boring Tomb Raider films to the overstylized and arrogant Wanted. Any petiteness she might have in stature is countered in her determined expression and nimbleness selling her as a superspy where the screenplay comes short. Noyce also does an admirable job with the action sequences, well-shot by cinematographer Robert Elswit if not resorting to anything unique. This is the frustrating yin-and-yang that Salt bounces us around with as we're trying to accept. Jolie is quite good as Salt despite being an underwritten character. The set pieces are well-edited and feel natural even if our socks aren't blown off. But Salt hasn't earned its James Bond license to kill yet despite being of the humorless tone of the Craig & Dalton Bonds more than Roger Moore. Ultimately, Salt becomes just one big, undeveloped origin story, not unlike the opening acts of the more underwhelming superhero franchises and it may indeed someday spawn a superior second act. Provided the makers of it are a little more aware of how stupid this film is.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19936&reviewer=198
originally posted: 07/23/10 00:00:00
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User Comments

10/29/16 morris campbell salt is female jason bourne & she kicks ass just go with it 4 stars
9/01/13 Charles Tatum Good action scenes almost save far fetched story 3 stars
3/03/12 Raven I still don't get it. I wasted a lot of minutes. Jolie does kick ass though. 3 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC Salt could use some salt. Very boring, predictable, not believable... 2 stars
9/10/11 Captain00Kirk Angelina Jolie kicks ass, nuff said! www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 4 stars
4/17/11 Chris. Someone forgot to tell them the ante was upped with Bourne--can't have average action now. 3 stars
2/23/11 millersxing I felt cheated not to see a sidekick like in Aeon Flux but named "Pepa" 3 stars
1/26/11 mr.mike With regards to Ebert , thumbs up. 4 stars
1/25/11 Smitty Plot full of holes - great action - Best James Bond movie that James Bond never made. 5 stars
12/21/10 action movie fan jolie accused of being russian mole-exciting with a very surprising end twist-very good 4 stars
9/15/10 Emiliano plot full of holes, action scenes well done 3 stars
9/01/10 Floorphiler about as stupid as Eagle Eye (2008) 2 stars
7/31/10 Durwood I can't tell you what it's about because I didn't get a thing out of it--boring!!! 1 stars
7/31/10 Alice I love it! Bravo! 5 stars
7/27/10 PAUL SHORTT VIOLENT AND PREDICTABLE DESPITE A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Jul-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2010

UK
  18-Aug-2010 (15)

Australia
  19-Aug-2010 (M)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2010




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