Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: SALT

I braved the storm that struck Kansas City today to share with you yet another movie going experience.  Today's film: Phillip Noyce's SALT

It was a bittersweet trip to the theater today.  Earlier this summer I had made plans to attend this year's gathering of the geeks in San Diego.  It wasn't in the cards for ol' Rhino and instead, as I write this, I am watching G4's live coverage of the Con.  San Diego Comic-Con is a gathering of all things great.  G4 is doing a great job covering the event, offering 4-hours of live coverage from the Con floor with its Attack of the Show staff, including the glorious geek Oliva Munn with Kevin Pereira and their merry band of roving reporters.  Say what you will, but these guys are hip and SDCC is THE PLACE TO BE!  Watching this coverage, let me share with you my favorite QUOTE OF THE CON: "The smell of Comic-Con is the scent of everyone getting excited at the same turns you on!" as spoken by a Wonder Woman costume clad gal from the backseat of the G4 mobile studio.  See you next year San Diego!

But, back to the matter at hand...Sadly, it was easy to be distracted as SALT did not live up to my expectations as a summer tentpole release.  I often am chided for being too easily entertained.  I think that my proclivity for liking even the most questionable of flicks harrows back to my desire to one day be a filmmaker.  I see in movies the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a flick.  I stay for the credits and hope that one day, I will see my name scroll down the big screen.  It is for this reason that I am easily entertained, but also the reason that I can be disappointed in movies that SHOULD be better than they are.  A big-budget flick with Angelina Jolie in the titular role, and co-starring  Schriber and Chiwetel Ejiofor...this is a movie that is designed to be and SHOULD BE better than it is...I expected a higher caliber of movie from this group.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, who has a semi-successful, but slightly aged, track record with Patriot Games, A Clear and Present Danger, The Bone Collector, and most recently, Catch a Fire.  Perhaps SALT was given to Noyce because of his success with 1980's and 1990's action?  This tale pits us in the midst of a retro 1980's-like Cold War controversy that puts the US in danger of kicking up "Cold War II."  What better enemy than the Commies, right? scary!  In the 80's version of Red Dawn, it was was scary as hell!  Here, it is more laughable than frightening.   The concept of this movie was good, the timing and delivery seemed off.

SALT was written by Kurt Wimmer who has decent lineage of respectable dramatic action-ish fare, including Sphere, The Recruit, Law Abiding Citizen, and one of my favorites, Equilibrium.

I'll do this a little out of order, but let me take a second to recommend highly to you, Equilibrium.  It stars Christian Bale and Taye Diggs, with supporting roles by Sean Bean, Emily Watson, and William Fitchner.  Wimmer both wrote and directed this, and while it suffered theatrically from drawing a direct comparison to The Matrix and drawing on its story in a roundabout way from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  The movie is an excellent entry into the action-sci-fi genre and Wimmer's 'Gun Kata' martial art is nothing short of amazing!  See Equilibrium, you won't be disappointed.

Back to my current disappointment, though, Salt lacked charm and Jolie came off as cold throughout the movie.  Perhaps that was the intention, but because of her metaphorical personality development, I never came to care for her, or for any of the characters for that matter.

Evelyn Salt is a CIA agent who is accused of being an undercover Russian operative at the outset of events.  Told completely through here eyes, the story unfolds to the viewer as a series of hardships that she endures and she fights to clear her name and "save the day."  You are never really drawn in to feel for her and instead you just observe.  So even when she is in peril early in the film, your primary concern as a viewer is: "Okay, so how is she going to get out of this, so we can transition to the next stage of this things?"

This movie gives us an interesting look at Jolie in two separate presentations, in terms of of her actual appearance.  One as a bleach blond and one as a jet black hair bad ass, leather clad heroine...I wonder what Brad thinks...ahh, who cares! I'm not a huge Jolie fan, but her looks were interesting, just not enough to carry this flick.

I give this flick a 3 out of 5 horn rating. 

Mediocre movies get the 2.5 to 3.5 range, and while I didn't dislike this movie, I wasn't call myself overly interested.  The flick is left open-ended for a sequel, but I can't imagine it will garner the success that would further call for a sequel.  I saw on several posts folks were comparing Jolie in this picture to Jason Bourne.  I disagree.  I severely disagree...Evelyn Salt is no Jason Bourne.  I would rather see Jolie pick up the Tomb Raider franchise to continue with this series.  Who am I, though, but a humble movie-goer.  Heed my review...go see it, but like Rapunzel, let down your expectations a little bit.  It will likely play better at the movie theater than in your home, for the fight scenes set-pieces will be better viewed on the big screen...even though the really impressive moments in this flick are way too few and far between.

If you opt out, maybe catch Equilibrium instead! That'll be much more worth your time.

Reel Rhino Horn Score: 3 out of 5 horns

That is all for now, but I will be catching something tomorrow, perhaps The Duplass Brothers' Cyrus, perhaps the foreign flick THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE WEIRD, which is playing at the Screenland.

You know that whatever it is you see, I'll be here to tell you what I think!  Till next time...take care!  

P.S. ~ Can we chalk "Who is Salt" among the worst taglines ever?  I think we can.

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