Columbia Pictures, Rated PG-13
While the Red Scare—putting forth elaborate schemes about a perpetually imminent Russian invasion and nuclear annihilation—was the stuff of science fiction movies, today that alarmist fare is more likely to surface in, well, Salt. A far too self-serious hyperactive odyssey of a fugitive CIA operative fingered as a Russian mole, Salt boasts unearned narrative smarts that are peppered with plot points more on the order of just plain daffy.
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Angelina Jolie sweats and flees through the spy thriller as Evelyn Salt, a female incarnation of the 90-pound weakling fantasy who can beat up burly men 10 at a time when not leaping off buildings and overpasses while sustaining barely a bruise. Was there a clause in the star’s movie contract that she’s got to be smarter, stronger and faster than everybody around her, or else?
So minus any suspense around not nabbing this indestructible petite killing machine—even if the entire NYPD, FBI and CIA are after her—the only mystery that remains is whether or not Salt is a Russian mole, a sleeper commie succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome, or in one scene, just a peeved spouse who can’t seem to master the knack of folding sexy dinner napkins to impress her husband, a specialist in North Korean insects.
But all that changes one day when a Kremlin version of Dick Cheney turns up and claims to be outing the supremely sarcastic spy. It seems the United States may have been crawling with sleeper agents since 1975, who will rise up on Day X to kill the visiting Russian president, maim his U.S. counterpart, and return Russia to its glory days as a superpower. It all culminates with the code word “whiskey,” which will unleash a nuclear bomb to presumably detonate in the Middle East and make Arabs really mad at America.
Salt would have benefited from a much less serious tone in light of its lunatic plot. The action sequences are strangely accelerated, seemingly to give credence to Jolie’s unconvincing superpowers in a contrasting story teeming with a grave sense of hyper reality. Ultimately, this would have made satire and a comic touch, even self-parody in cartoonish mode, the better choice