Pout and shoot? It's not that simple.
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, July 23, 2010
"Salt," a ludicrous but somehow credible spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie, delivers a swift, super-charged kick in the pants. Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, who may or may not be a Russian mole in the CIA. When a defector blows her cover -- or does he? -- Salt loses the pumps and takes it on the move, leading her fellow agents (played by Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor) on a breakneck chase from Washington to New York and finally back to the White House, where she blows through squads of Secret Service with perfect aim and her own brand of pouting, unflagging verve.
In fact it's Salt's superhuman physical feats -- building a bazooka with only a table leg and cleaning supplies, scaling the exterior of her apartment building with bare hands (and feet), driving a car by way of a Taser (you'll see) -- that make "Salt" such a puzzlement of a movie. With its plot involving Russian sleeper spies and assassinations, it has all the makings of a sleek, even au courant political thriller on par with such greats as "Three Days of the Condor" and "The Manchurian Candidate." But all the preposterous demolition-derby action puts it squarely in the "Die Hard" camp: It's popcorn pulp that collided -- at 100 mph, natch -- with a far more sober and crafty grown-up movie.
And that's okay! Taken purely on its own terms, "Salt" succeeds with pounding brio and insistent, propulsive pacing. Working from a script by Kurt Wimmer, director Phillip Noyce (here channeling his Jack Ryan oeuvre more than his stately credits like "The Quiet American" or "Rabbit-Proof Fence") proves that competence and style still reign supreme, even in creating entertainment at its most outlandishly escapist. Jolie knows this, too. She attacks her role with unbridled commitment, and even relish, whether to the most ludicrous stunts or Salt's more nuanced moments of grief, self-doubt and ambiguous allegiances.
Those psychological shadows make "Salt" sequels a tantalizing prospect; surely Jolie has the chops to join the mostly all-male pantheon of action-franchise anchors. And who knows, maybe as Jolie slows down Salt will, too -- and grown-ups can finally see the thriller that's in there, buried underneath all the outrageous wreckage that adrenaline junkies leave in their wake.
Contains intense sequences of violence and action.