Directed by: Philip Noyce Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 23, 2010
PLOT: A woman (Jolie) who works at the CIA suspiciously goes on the run after she is accused of being a Russian spy.
WHO'S IT FOR? The action junkies who need something to hold them off until Stallone’s The Expendables detonates a bomb-arrow in their brains on August 13th. Or, those who like the kinetic nature of the Bourne movies, and don’t mind a similar PG-13 movie with a notably lower IQ level.
EXPECTATIONS: With a bland bus-covering campaign that asks us not “What is salt?” but “Who is Salt?” my expectations were not very high. While I’m always down for some slam-bang action, I was hoping that this salty movie would not leave a bitter taste in my mouth - or have me thirsty for more. And while I generally do not like the white condiment, I don’t mind the thought of some knuckle sandwiches with salt on top. Mostly, I was banking on how many puns I would be able to use in my review.
Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt: The occasional actress star must have an obsession with throats: she loves punching throats, kicking them, choking them with handcuffs, and even hurling handguns at them. Most important, she wants to grab her audience by the throat, and scream to us, “I CAN BE A BADASS TOO!” And while she's not 100% there yet, she’s on her way to that distinction with her completely hands-on stunt-heavy performance, that has her doing everything from hopping down to different corners of an elevator shaft to speaking Russian with a believable accent. And not only does she want to look badass, but she also wants to be just bad … looking. The film starts with her beaten-up and bloodied, and is followed by numerous scenes where her famous looks are put way in the backseat of this action vehicle. In fact, they’re so far back in the mind that a “romantic” scene hinted at the trailer is nowhere to be seen here. Jolie’s even romantically paired with the ugliest Nazi from Inglourious Basterds. As much as she wants all of this to be so, we don’t fully believe it. Score: 6
Liev Schreiber as Ted Winter: It looks like Schreiber’s having back problems in this movie, because he constantly has this look of pained stiffness. (Perhaps his agent backstabbed him with another bad script?) Of the group of men running around with suits and guns throughout Salt, Schreiber has the worst lines, and his consistently bored expressions indicate some self-awareness. At ease, sir. Score: 2
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peabody: If Ejiofor had more scenes, he could be in the same character doghouse that Schreiber’s character dominates in this movie. Instead, he’s mostly a spectator, who represents the audience’s confusion about whether Evelyn Salt is a hero or villain. Score: 3
TALKING: In scenes that are either in either action or romantic settings, the dialogue is notably stock. Fortunately, the poorness of word choice does lend itself to a few comical moments. Before getting blasted away, a person tries to defend his life by saying, “but I’m a national security agent!” That’s likely the most original line that Salt has to offer. Score: 3
SIGHTS: There are a collection of impressive stunts, but some of them are coddled by tricky editing that divides the stunt into two shots instead of one fluid take (the truck hopping, which occurs more than once). I read in Entertainment Weekly that 1/3 of the movie is action, and reflectively, that makes sense. Jolie is shown booking it in numerous occasions, or participating in many martial arts sequences that aren’t as hard hitting as they could be. Salt makes pistol-whipping and throat-harming its own art form. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score uses gee-whiz musical cueing to warn its audience that an action sequence, which has already been revved up by obvious visual evidence, is about to commence. It’s as if the characters are fighting and running around under the control of James Newton Howard, and his score is the god that controls their impulses. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: Next to Anton Chigurh's take-down in No Country for Old Men, this movie might feature one of the best handcuff chokes in recent memory (a very distinguishable honor!)
ENDING: Kudos to Salt for not making itself too obvious, but the twist is something we’ve all seen before. In fact, it seems so obvious that even mentioning that there is a twist in the film might give it away. Dammit, I’ve been duped again.
QUESTIONS: So the security of the White House bunker is really that slim? Just a handful of soldiers down there, and only one is blocking that big door? Also - spider toxins? Really?
REWATCHABILITY: As a light snack in brain abandonment, Salt has the potential to swiftly kill some time, or at least punch it in the throat.
Less punching and kicking, and more truck leap-frogging. Salt is the kind of OK action movie that masquerades as something to be taken serious, even though it’s got laughable dialogue, flimsy performances, and a life and death dependence on an unnatural amount of human luck. With these missing qualities, a simple movie like Salt should completely forfeit logic for the sake of spectacle – unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. The script does not assist Salt's mission in wanting to play with the Bauers, Bonds, and Bournes who have paved the way for the modern action movie. Jolie busts her badass performing a numerous amount of extreme verbs, but these moments of action are familiar and lack the proper amount of surprising bang they should be loaded with. The offer of action is upstaged for the most part by the mystery of its title character – the story does have the potential to get its audience considering Salt’s allegiance to either side. What keeps the audience occupied in their seats is not the action so much as the disbelief that maybe Jolie is the villain. While Jolie is dashing, dodging, kicking, running, and throat-punching for the praising of people already accustomed to loving action’s almighty JB’s, the overall picture doesn’t share the same enthusiasm to wow its audience with much that is special. Jolie’s the only one worth her salt.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10