Salt (2010)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/24/13
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber

Not nearly as bad was I was expecting it to be, given the awful chauvinistic hype that it got. The last time Hollywood attempted to make a female action film of this caliber was in 1996's sorely disappointing "The Long Kiss Goodnight." This time around, we have a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) who has been called out as a Russian sleeper agent. In an attempt to clear her name, she breaks out of protective custody and tries to track down her missing husband, who is in grave danger. But whose side is she on and can she be trusted? A dangerous turn of events leads America and Russia to the brink of nuclear war, and Salt holds the key to saving the world from annihilation.

It's a taut thriller and an energetic action film, but the increasingly outrageous plot tends to spoil the fun. Angelina Jolie is in superb form and handles her action scenes with powerful grace and brutal efficiency. For the most part, the visual effects are quite good, but some of the wirework is unconvincing. The fight choreography is good, but quick cuts and invasive editing rob Ms. Jolie's fight scenes of their potency. The music score is generic and easily forgettable, but it does a good job of setting and keeping the pace. Apart from the increasingly glaring lapses in logic and physics, the biggest disappointment is that Salt's actions are motivated by love. I'm so tired of the female action persona being reduced to a romantic vessel, as it undermines the character's power and credibility. Thankfully, Salt isn't completely one dimensional, as love eventually gives way to anger, hatred, and revenge.

Despite the film's shortcomings and my various criticisms, it must be applauded for the treatment of Salt's character. She is never sexualized, looked down upon, or talked down to, and is treated with fear and respect as an equal or superior. None of the macho bullshit that typically drags down Hollywood movies is present here, and apart from the love angle, Salt's character is given a sterile and straight forward asexual presentation. It wasn't until after the film was over that I realized the lack of disgust that I usually feel after watching domestic attempts at female action, which is definitely worth noting. In retrospect, I think this is the film's greatest achievement. Definitely worth checking out.