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SALT (director: Philip Noyce; screenwriter: Kurt Wimmer; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editors: Stuart Baird/John Gilroy; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Angelina Jolie (Evelyn Salt), Liev Schreiber (Ted Winter), Chiwetel Ejiofor (William Peabody), Daniel Olbrychski (Orlov), Andre Braugher (Secretary of Defense), August Diehl (Mike Krause), Hunt Block (U.S. President, Olek Krupa(Russian President); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura/Sunil Perkash; Columbia Pictures; 2010)
“Requires more than a suspension of disbelief to take it all in without gagging in disbelief.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie director Philip Noyce (“Rabbit-Proof Fence”/”The Quiet American”/”Patriot Games”)uses the far-fetched ludicrous script by Kurt Wimmer to come up with this post-cold war conspiracy-theory action film about Russian sleeper agents planted in America and ready to carry out their “Day X” mission to destroy America, that’s so over the top (it tells us with a straight-face that JFK assassin Oswald was a Soviet plant and not really Oswald) and scripted with such emptiness and absurdity that it even requires more than a suspension of disbelief to take it all in without gagging in disbelief. It’s a popcorn summer blockbuster action pic, a poor man’s Bourne imitation that’s a wannabe franchise film, that is watchable hokum if in the mood to catch Angelina Jolie strike a pose as both a sexy lady (appearing in the flick as both a blonde and a brunette) and a super-women who can kick ass as good as any of the cinematic men superheroes. Jolie took the part Tom Cruise turned down, fearing it was too much like Mission Impossible, and she rewrote to fit the specs for a woman star to do the same action scenes a James Bond-type of man would do (but without any sexist overtures).

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent, recently swapped in a prison exchange with North Korea after being tortured, who interrogates a Russian defector agent named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) and during the interrogation he accuses Salt of being a sleeper agent for the KGB whose assignment is to kill the Russian president in a NYC church as he attends the funeral of the American vice president. With no time for explanations to her suspicious colleagues Salt flees the secure CIA building and the earnest CIA handler (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and her loyal CIA boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and goes home to check if her endangered loving German citizen husband (August Diehl ), an arachnologist, is OK and in her rush to escape the CIA agents still finds the time to get a suitable shelter for her cute pet dog. Salt escapes the Washington D.C. agents by jumping from a highway trestle (shot in Albany, NY, as a substitute for Washington) onto a speeding truck, doing the trick a couple of times to show the first time was no accident, and fleeing to NYC to keep a date with the Russian president. We’re left guessing whether she’s a double agent or not, but that part of the film is so sloppily executed that there’s not much to guess about agent Salt. But along the way there are several twists, that mostly make the film even more ridiculous.

Salt is a preposterous escapist flick that’s all about carefully crafted mechanical action pic stunts and cheap comic book storytelling. The characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue is trite and the logic is put on hold so one can go on this roller coaster ride and not care about anything else but having a good ole time at the mall cinema. If that’s all one is looking for, then I must say Salt delivers the salt.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”