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Given the recent tragedies in the US and the subsequent crackdown on security all over the world, Swordfish seems somewhat prophetic, dealing with issues such as defending the US and global terrorism. However, it is a credit to the film companies and distributors that they have not reacted unnecessarily to the potentially sensitive nature of the story and bring us an accomplished film and impressive DVD.

Movie
The film tells the story of Stanley Jobson, a convicted computer genius who was regarded as the best hacker in the business in his prime. Now resigned to living in a trailer and fighting the courts for custody of his young daughter, Stanley’s world is turned upside-down by a proposal from CIA Gabriel Shear. The proposition is made all the more enticing by the gorgeous messenger-girl Ginger and soon enough Stanley has agreed to a face-to-face with Gabriel. What ensues is a job interview with a twist and a deal that would see Stanley break parole and help Gabriel siphon billions out of hidden Government funds. Always in the back of the good-natured Stanley’s mind is the money he will receive that will inevitably allow him to take care of his daughter.

Gabriel sees himself as much more than a criminal. He accesses obscene amounts of money to fund his anti-terrorist establishment. If someone decides to blow up a school in Manhattan, he’ll charge up his posse and blow the living hell out of ten schools overseas, all the while looking extremely swish in designer suits and an equally impressive bachelor pad. Gabriel knew about a Government front which pulled money into a hidden account before being abandoned in 1986 and totaling around four million dollars. Fourteen years later the money gained enough interest to sink the U-571 and Gabriel has his sights set firmly on the booty, and I don’t just mean Ginger. He needs Jobson to get past the firewalls and encryption devices to access the funds while Gabriel takes control of a bank and loads a dozen hostages up with enough explosives to wipe out a whole city. Crazy stuff indeed. Meanwhile, the hotter-than-hot Ginger hides behind a bit of a smokescreen throughout the movie, never revealing her true agenda until the finale enlightens us all.

Nerd Heaven
Much more than just a bunch of ones and zeros, the film moves along at breakneck speed and features an extremely talented cast who know exactly how to play along with the action. John Travolta is his usual charismatic self and portrays the passionate Gabriel to perfection. Hugh Jackman (incidentally, not the producer’s first choice as heard in the extras package) seems a little out of place as a computer whiz, although he still maintains the character quite well. Halle Berry provides the much publicised eye-candy, although it’s still debatable as to whether her breasts were paid an appearance fee. My guess is for the affirmative, just for the record.

Other notable cast members include the ever-convincing Don Cheadle and Sam Shepard as a corrupt Senator and partner of the devious Gabriel.  Produced by Joel Silver (of The Matrix fame) and Directed by the boundary-pushing Dominic Sena (the brains behind the Gone In 60 Seconds remake), this flick is an impressive action flick that contains enough originality and class to push it up with the best of them.

Video
In a word; outstanding. The disc is presented in glorious 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced.

Roadshow have again pulled another sensationally looking DVD out of their bag of tricks, with this release being nothing short of spectacular. The cinematography lends itself to some stunning visuals and this transfer certainly doesn’t disappoint. The green wash placed over various scenes brings the colours out to an almost surreal level and creates an awesome mix of deep shadows and solid colours. Everything is razor sharp and detail is maintained in even the most demanding scenes. Everything from high-speed car chases to smoke to detailed costumes are handled perfectly, enabling the viewer to concentrate on Halle Berry disrobing instead of discolouration.

The intentional ploy by the Director to pull focus throughout Gabriel’s opening monologue is somewhat distracting but would’ve been even more confusing had it not been for the detail involved in the transfer. An interesting choice, one that may have riled a few of the less seasoned movie-goers.

An interesting read...
Audio
Go next door, ring the doorbell and explain to your neighbours that they will be hearing a fair amount of guns and explosions over the next 95 minutes whether they like it or not. If they express any negative opinion, merely invite them over with some popcorn and let them experience the awesome soundtrack with you. That way everyone’s happy.

Included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that will shake the foundations of your house while you watch and listen. One of the most elaborate explosion scenes in cinema history is done terrific justice by the use of the surrounds and a gutsy subwoofer to fully immerse you in the flying ball bearings and shattered glass.

It’s surprising that Roadshow didn’t include a DTS track for this release as many of their other new titles have included this soundtrack. That’s not to say the 5.1 track isn’t enough, however, so I can assure you you won’t be disappointed.

The music also pumps out to perfection, with all of the chosen tracks adding more to the film and the soundtrack. Well worth a listen, rounding out what is a sensational mix even though the front-end is used a lot more apart from the mind-blowing visual effects sequences.


Extras
No disappointments here either. There’s enough packed on this disc to satisfy even the most fussy DVD enthusiast and even includes an Australian exclusive of the highest quality.

First up we have the Audio Commentary from Director Dominic Sena. This one’s a corker. Anyone who has seen the short documentary on the Gone In 60 Seconds disc will know how enthusiastic Sena is about his work, particularly action flicks. He imparts a hell of a lot of information about a whole range of issues, including casting, locations and the detailed effects. Well worth a listen even if you’re not much of a fan of the movie.

The Swordfish Making Of Documentary is a 15 minute piece looking at various issues during production. There’s the usual behind-the-scenes footage as well as interviews and outtakes so this one is a cut above your usual promotional fare.

The magic schoolbus returns
The Effects In Focus Doco looks at the two detailed visual effects sequences and really shows the viewer exactly what is put into such elaborate scenes as these two. It focuses more on the scene with the bus but there is some exploration into the showcase “bank” scene of the movie. Short, but well worth a look.

Two alternate endings are included in the package and are very interesting to watch. Although the video quality is pretty poor and the audio level has been set much softer than the rest of the disc the different endings are definitely a worthwhile addition. Thankfully Sena provides a commentary as to why they were not used in the final cut and exactly what they were trying to portray with these alternatives. Good extra.

The best feature on the disc would have to be the Australian exclusive interview with Hugh Jackman and John Travolta on television variety show Rove Live. While I’m definitely not a fan of Rove McManus and his interviewing style in particular, the two subjects move most of the discussion along themselves. Both are obviously very good friends and for once Rove doesn’t look awkward when asking them questions. The highlight is a spontaneous rendition of “Summer Lovin” from Grease and Jackman’s impression of Sandy. Running for over twenty minutes and having the advertisement breaks edited out, this high-quality interview is the standout in a very impressive extras package.

Rounding out the disc are the usual Cast & Crew Profiles, the impressive theatrical trailer and a bunch of DVD-ROM material that is well worth a look, if a little hard to navigate. You’ll also need an internet connection, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t, correct?

Overall
I cannot recommend this disc enough. One of the best action flicks of modern times and if you can suspend a little disbelief for while you’ll be taken on an awesome thrill ride with this one. The visuals are stunning, the audio is superb and the extras have been crammed to the hilt to provide one of the best discs of 2001. Period.


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