I don’t really ask for much during the summer. A nice ocean breeze, a nice grilled veggie dog, some good waves, and at least one mindless action movie that doesn’t subtract brain cells. Salt definitely isn’t a classic movie, or is it even close to being a good movie, but it certainly fills the bill for an entertaining summer popcorn picture: lots of bang for your buck.
Salt returns Angelina Jolie to the spy/action genre that she inhabited so wonderfully in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but don’t be fooled—-Salt is a far cry from the well-made, well-written and well-acted film that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was. Here Jolie is bland and uninspiring, even as she kicks butts and performs the best James Bond impersonation I’ve ever seen from a female onscreen. The character she plays was originally written for a man—Tom Cruise, in fact—so some of her feats are quite implausible, but I think she’s the only actress in Hollywood that could have even come close to pulling it off. She has this unique combination of strength and sex-appeal that is truly appealing—to all demographics. And that’s what makes it easy to forget how out-matched she is for the character, as written, and you are able to accept all the many “oh come on, no WAY” moments that occur during this film. I went to see the movie on opening weekend and the theatre was filled with every type, from old ladies to teenage boys. Jolie’s universal appeal is undeniable. But even Angelina Jolie cannot save Salt from being just another run-of-the-mill action shoot-em-up movie and the only reason to go see this in the first place IS Angelina Jolie.
She does have the good luck of having a co-star, in Liev Schreiber, who is smart, strong and equal to her in everything but sexiness. Schreiber has long been a completely underrated actor and he gets some moments here to shine, but, mostly, he is reduced to being an extra in chase scenes and is never able to rise above the script, which is painfully one-dimensional and unimaginative.
What director Phillip Noyce—best-known for the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan actioners—is able to do, and quite well, is make a movie that is so fast and furious that you really don’t—and can’t—pay attention to its flaws. There is hardly a moment to breathe, and, before you know it, it’s over. To some, that may be a relief, especially for those who roll their eyes at some of the action sequences that are way too far-fetched to believe. But, for me, I found Salt a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a hot summer afternoon, as I accepted that this film is simply Hollywood-being-Hollywood and, sometimes, that means checking your critical eye at the door. Accept it for what it is and you’ll have a good time. And maybe be happy that summer only lasts for 4 months.