Movie: Salt

Sux.  Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.  Phillip Noyce is a highly skilled director (he made the excellent little thriller Dead Calm – if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it now – and those fun Harrison Ford Tom Clancy films) and the action is well filmed.  Also, the set-up’s intriguing and keeps you interested for a while.

But it’s finally just too absurd.  The plot makes no sense, and every time there’s a chance for a good scene or a little emotional development it launches into yet another car chase or explosion.  What dialogue there is is dull.  Every time the wonderful Liev Schreiber opened his mouth, I felt sorry for him.  Even he couldn’t make the leaden repartee sing, much as he tried.

Oh, and plus–I’m sorry, I was willing to suspend disbelief somewhat and pretend that a girl could beat people up like that.  It worked in The Losers with the lovely but frail Zoe Saldana.  But not here.  The once luscious Angelina Jolie looks positively anorexic–so much so that I suspect they used a body double for the one scene at the beginning where she’s undressed.  I didn’t mind when she was shooting people–though the recoil would’ve blown her into the next room–but every time she hit some guy, I could practically feel her hand break.  How much cooler and more exciting it would be, even in a big action film, to see a woman who has to use her wits a little bit to overcome the physical disadvantages of being smaller and weaker than her (after all, equally well-trained) male opponents.

Maybe that’s asking too much of a movie like this, but Salt’s gender was just one more absurdity in 90 straight minutes of pure nonsense.

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  • http://confoundinglysimple.wordpress.com/ Brian

    I have to disagree, Mr. Klavan. I think they did a really good job of making the gaunt Jolie struggle at taking down her adversaries. She rarely dropped a bad guy in a single blow, having to go back and forth between multiple baddies, inflicting multiple blows before they dropped. Additionally, when she battled the main bad guy in the final scene, she mostly got her butt kicked and when she landed any blows, they rarely carried any impact. I think it was fairly well done in concern of whether or not a 50 pound woman could fight a 200 pound man.

    SPOILER ALERT

    Plus, it gets bonus points for portraying a Russian who finds that America is so great that she is willing to give her life and her “innocence” to defeat all of the country’s enemies, regardless of whether or not she is physically able to pull it off.

  • Hunter Baker

    I grant all of your points about the unreality of Jolie beating men to a pulp, but don’t you give the film a little credit for the non-stop action? I mean, I’m a fairly jaundiced movie watcher, but I was never bored during Salt and never checked the time to see when it might be over.

  • Devin Christensen

    Haven’t seen Salt or The Losers yet, but it did my heart good to read your comments on the unbelievability of Jolie beating the crap out of all the male baddies. This kind of thing in movies has been bugging the crap out of me for years now. It’s not that I can’t buy a woman holding her own with a man in a fight, or even a gorgeous woman holding her own with a man in a fight (see MMA fighter Gina Carano, for example; I could buy her knocking a guy’s teeth out), but it just stretches my suspension of disbelief a bit too far to see stick girls who look like they weigh maybe 100 pounds wet womping on 6 foot 2 muscle men. I agree that I find female characters in stories much more interesting when they act less like Bruce Lee and instead have to use their wits to beat their opponents (for example, see Elizabeth Turner in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie vs. its two sequels; in the first one she remains a proactive, smart protagonist without turning into an action hero; in the sequel the writers give into the stupid feminist cliches and she’s suddenly a blade master). If you’re gonna have a female in a movie knocking guys’ lights out, at least get a woman who actually looks like she can pack a punch instead of skeletal anorexics.

  • K

    Thanks for commenting on the 120lb woman beating up 200lb thug cliche. It almost always takes me out of the movie, not only because of the believability angle, but because of the “WOMEN ARE EQUAL TO MEN IN EVERY WAY!!!” message right in your face.

    Strangely enough, such scenes are almost never written or directed by women. Which leads me to believe that there are a substantial number of men who enjoy seeing other men beaten up by women – or would themselves like that treatment.

  • Dick Split

    Thanks for your comment on Salt and Angelina Jolie. Was not really considering to go and see it but will look for Dead Calm. I am from the Netherlands by the way. I read True Crime (in Dutch) and am reading Damnation Street now (in English; love it). I thought you were a christian writer (hard to define what that is by the way), because I saw your name on a christian website; probably Thomas Nelson.I had to laugh when I started reading Damnation Street; a lot of Fuck and Shit, haha. I am interested what you think about Christianity. Anyway, I am eager to go and read more of your books; they are intelligent, fast, riveting, fast and also funny.

  • Matt

    Haven’t seen the movie, but this passage “How much cooler and more exciting it would be, even in a big action film, to see a woman who has to use her wits a little bit to overcome the physical disadvantages of being smaller and weaker than her (after all, equally well-trained) male opponents.” made me think (again) what a shame it is that the late Robert Parker’s Sunny Randall books, which he created specifically as a vehicle for Helen Hunt, never made it into production. She is exactly the kind of character you describe, and if done right, they could have been great movies.