Dir: Phillip Noyce

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Columbia Pictures

100 Minutes

This will be the third time this week I reference the show “24” in a review, but I guess I have Jack Bauer on the brain lately. One of the most frustrating things about being a fan of Kiefer Sutherland’s now defunct counterterrorism show is that each season, without fail, there is at least one mole who has infiltrated his or her way into a key position in either a crime-fighting agency or the government itself. What began as thrilling when we find out that Nina Myers is a counteragent, soon degraded into seven subsequent seasons of the same twist over and over. Fortunately, “24” doesn’t solely place its success on the unmasking of the enemy in our midst. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all Salt, the new Angelina Jolie action vehicle, bases its flimsy premise on.

In this Phillip Noyce potboiler, a cadre of Russian Cold War sleeper agents become active in modern New York. A former KGB agent fingers Jolie’s CIA agent Evelyn Salt as one of those involved in a plot that threatens to destabilize the United States. Jolie goes on the lam, kicking ass and blowing shit up along the way. There are a few twists that anyone can see coming a mile away. The door is left open for the inevitable sequel. Lights come up.

Filled with ferocious and frenetic energy, Jolie and Salt do not bore as almost every moment of the film features either a chase or fight scene. But a ridiculous script riddled with plot holes brings down Jolie’s wild performance and cuts down the film’s plausibility. Is Salt a Russian agent? Why do the Russians want their own President assassinated? How many other sleeper agents are out there? Why the fuck are we still battling Russians circa 2010? Who cares!?

Another problem with Salt takes me back to “24.” In Season three, Jack Bauer is under deep cover in Mexico. Or is he? The show’s creators admitted they dropped the ball that season by keeping the audience in the dark for half its run. The same goes for Salt, as most of the film ticks by before we learn Evelyn Salt’s true objective. By that point, it doesn’t really matter.

Much has been made about how Tom Cruise was initially slated to play Salt, but passed because the material hewed too close to his own Mission:Impossible role. Jolie stepped in and with supposedly little script doctoring Salt went from a male character to a female one. In the same summer that brought us Lisbeth Salander, there is something admittedly refreshing about a female character kicking ass and saving males (this time her scientist husband) in distress. However, Noyce keeps us in the dark so long about Evelyn Salt and her motivations, it’s hard to either cheer or detest her.

There were many opportunities to save the film from the doldrums of summer action film tropes. Without going too much into detail, Evelyn Salt could have been the greatest patsy since Lee Harvey Oswald, a historical figure the film claims was a Russian agent. Unfortunately, the only patsy in this situation is us the audience and the $11 we’re convinced to part with to sit through Salt.

by David Harris

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