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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 Peter Sobczynski

"She Runs So Much, They Should Call It "Mrs. Dash"
4 stars

“Salt” is a film that couldn’t be more preposterous if it tried and if there is one thing that you can say about it, it is that it is always trying. Like most of the eminently forgettable blockbuster extravaganzas of late, it is filled with clichéd characters, ridiculously overscaled action sequences that defy all known limitations of physics and pain tolerance and a storyline that is so patently silly and confusing that the biggest challenge for the actors seems to be in trying to keep a straight face as the absurdities pile higher and higher. Unlike most of the eminently forgettable blockbuster extravaganzas of late, it has been made with such style and efficiency that most viewers will be willing to forgive its borderline demented excesses or at least forget about them until the end credits have long stopped unspooling. Make no mistake, this is nothing more than cinematic junk food but at least it is the high quality stuff that leaves a fairly good taste this time around and not the cheapo crap that leaves you feeling stupid and sluggish and wishing that you had never indulged in the first place.

Angelina Jolie stars as CIA field agent Evelyn Salt and as the film opens, she has just been captured by the North Koreans and undergoes the kind of brutal torture that suggests that Kim Jong Il is a long-standing member of Team Aniston (which wouldn’t surprise me at all, quite frankly.) She is eventually sprung by an effort spearheaded by her German arachnologist boyfriend, Mike (August Diehl) and brokered by her agency superior, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber), and returned home. When the story picks up two years later, Salt is working out of Washington D.C. and is about to go home to Mike to celebrate their anniversary when a Russian named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) walks into the building and announces that he wants to defect, he is dying of cancer and that he has important information that he wants to reveal so that he can die with a clean conscience. Salt gets the job of interviewing him to see if he has any information of value and during the interrogation, Orlov spins a wild story that, in ways that I will leave for you to discover, connects Lee Harvey Oswald, “The Brady Bunch” and a vast network of Russian sleeper agents that have been training since childhood for the time when they would be unleashed and cause enough chaos to bring America to its knees and reestablish Russia as the one true superpower. In fact, one of those sleeper agents is scheduled to assassinate the president of Russia in New York City the very next day, when he is scheduled to speak at the funeral of the recently deceased American vice-president. Salt finds the entire story to be ridiculous and is about to turn Orlov over to another interrogator when he unexpectedly reveals the name of the agent set to perform the assassination--Evelyn Salt.

Needless to say, this revelation doesn’t go over particularly well with Salt’s co-workers despite her protests of innocence and while Ted is willing to give her a chance to explain, by-the-book agency rival Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wants to put her in immediate custody until things can get sorted out. Before anything can happen, Orlov makes a break for it and in the confusion, Salt, realizing that Mike is now in imminent danger, takes advantage of the situation and escapes from the locked-down building with the help of a weapon constructed out of a trash can, a fire extinguisher and the contents of a first aid kit. When she returns home, Mike is gone and after a second narrow escape from the authorities, she dyes her hair black to escape detection (though one would think that the lips would be more of a giveaway) and makes her way to New York and the funeral to either prevent or pull off the assassination. I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens from this point on except to note that before the film ends, there will be any number of impossible escapes, several elaborate disguises, several additional assassination attempts, a threatened nuclear strike, several wildly unexpected plot developments (one involving the crucial deployment of spider venom of all things) and a shocking last-minute reveal that I suspect most viewers will be able to figure out the moment they see the cast list.

With its ridiculously convoluted story and its attempt to revive the Russkies as the biggest baddies around, “Salt” feels like it was inspired from a long-forgotten novel of the kind that one would normally only see people reading while in the middle of long plane flights. On the bright side, it seems evident that screenwriter Kurt Wimmer knows just how absurd the story is and plays up to that at certain points--note how Salt is always able to come across a convenient rack of hats or clothes that she can not only randomly pilfer at a moment’s notice when the need arises but somehow manages to look like a supermodel with the results of her blind grabs every single time. What is interesting, though, is how director Phillip Noyce, whose previous efforts have included the Jack Ryan epics “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger,” has chosen to approach the admittedly flamboyant material in a relatively straightforward and realistic manner--well, as straightforward and realistic as can be achieved under the circumstances. Instead of staging his action sequences as live-action cartoons in which every shot is augmented by some form of CGI gimcrackery, he goes for an old school approach that favors the practical effects and snappy stunt work that used to bring action films to life back in the day. There are still plenty of sequences that stretch the boundaries of credibility (especially during Salt’s truck-hopping freeway escape and a later sequence in which she hurtles herself down what appears to be the world’s biggest elevator shaft) but thanks to Noyce’s comparatively grounded take on the material, they never stretch the boundaries too far. Noyce is also an economical storyteller as well and in a time when even something as frivolous and inessential as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” somehow requires two hours of screen time to tell its non-existent story, it is to his credit that he can take a story as overstuffed as this one and bring it in at a blissfully lean 97 minutes.

Of course, the most impressive visual effect on display in “Salt” is Angelina Jolie, whose strong and smart performance is the other anchor that keeps the film from floating off into total silliness. Because it is in the service of an unabashedly pulpy action thriller, her acting will most likely be overlooked in most quarters but she really does an excellent job of taking such a potentially implausible character and turning her into someone quasi-believable. Yes, she is convincing enough in the scenes in which she is running and jumping and pounding the stuffing out of the luckiest stuntmen around but she is equally convincing during the admittedly rare character-driven moments as well. In fact, even though the question of where Salt’s loyalties really lie is probably answered a little quicker than need be, Jolie manages to supply the character with enough of a sense of ambiguity that even the most cynical, seen-it-all-before viewers may be second-guessing themselves at certain points. Jolie is such a perfect fit for the role, in fact, that it is interesting to note that this project was originally designed as a star vehicle for Tom Cruise and the lead role underwent gender reassignment when he turned it down and she signed on instead. I can see how “Salt” might have worked with Cruise in the lead but Jolie’s presence adds a certain something to it that cannot be denied and which separates it from most other summer action epics as clearly as, well, “Knight and Day.”

“Salt” isn’t perfect, of course--there are missed opportunities (the character of Salt’s husband remains frustratingly underdeveloped) and bits of laziness (the ultimate goal of the bad guys feels like a silly cop-out) and there are times when I found myself wondering what Jolie and Noyce might have accomplished if they had taken the premise and made a completely realistic and action-free film out of it in the manner of something like “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.” And yet, while it won’t be challenging “Inception” for the title of smartest film of the summer, it sets out to provide audiences with thrills, spills, sexy dames and the occasional moment of sheer silliness and it accomplishes those goals quite admirably. In fact, by the time the film spends its last few minutes setting itself up for a hoped-for sequel, most viewers will have been so entertained with what has gone before it that they will be looking forward to the notion of the further adventures of Evelyn Salt instead of dreading the possibility. All I know is that if they do make a follow-up, they had better call it “Salt II.”

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19936&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/23/10 00:09:58
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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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