Think of Phillip Noyce’s Salt as a crummy stand-in for John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate—it’s all here: political assassinations, Russian sleeper agents, cripplingly poor imitations of Soviet accents. But in place of subtlety we’re given Nickelback guitar riffs, gradual mental breakdown is traded for car chases and church bombings, and sexy ladies wearing card costumes is hocked in the name of “Mangelina” Jolie, one of Hollywood’s most horrific creations in all of its 100 year history. It’s a movie that wants to walk the line between intelligent espionage thriller and insane Shoe-Knife-to-Your-Throat action blockbuster, but ends up clumsily stumbling over both.
We first meet Evenlyn Salt (Angelina Jolie while she’s lying on the ground getting her face kicked in by a bunch of North Korean thuggies; in response to their interrogation she continually screams “I’m not schpy! Not a schpy! Noooott aaaaa sccchhhhpppyyyy!”. She’s soon rescued by Ted Winter (Liev Schriber) and weinery boyfriend Mike Krause, at which time we discover—she’s a spy. For none other than the C. I. A. Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. The trio helicopter back stateside, six months pass in blank space, then a Russian named Orlov makes an appearance in the CIA lobby as a “walk-in” informant. The man claims Salt will soon kill the Russian ambassador who’s attending the US Vice President’s funeral, thus spurring forth a secret sleeper-agent agenda that began with the assassination of John F Kennedy and would end with the eventual demise of the US Government. Rather than refute any of his claims, Salt runs down a bunch of hallways, jumps out some windows, rolls onto the top of a semi-truck from a bridge, and winds her way to New York where the aforementioned funeral is being held. There’s a lot of convoluted junk that happens afterwards, culminating in—yes—a transsexual Angelina Jolie locked in a fist fight with Liev Schriber over possible nuclear annihilation of the Middle-east, but who really cares?
Whoever did the makeup for this movie should be shot—essentially, someone taped silly putty on Jolie’s face to make her chin a little wider before deciding, “Okay, she looks like a man, on to Liev’s hair gel”. Her eyelashes remain plucked to spider-leg lengths, and I’m pretty sure she was wearing a thick, uneven gloss of mascara, but who cares, she’s got a big chin. Instant dude. On top of that, all of the film’s action—and there’s a lot—is performed to the beat of rejected Lincoln Park riffs. Car chase? DUN-DA-DUN-DA-DUN…DUN-DUN-DUN-DUNNN! Running down the stairs? DUN-DA-DUN-DA-DUN…DUN-DUN-DUN-DUNNN! Blowing up a church? DUN-DA-DUN-DA-DUN…DUN-DUN-DUN-DUNNN! It’s all throughout this piece of crap, and makes the relentlessly horrible action that much worse. The best part of Salt takes place towards the end, when some hereto nameless extra throws his arms up and yells “I’m the director of homeland ssseeeccuuurrrittyyyy!” before getting shot in the face. That man knew—he read the script and knew—what a turd Salt was, so he said “Screw it, I’m getting my name in the credits by any means possible.” And that’s exactly what he did. I really don’t know who would enjoy this movie. It’s filled with sloppy, terrible action. The director somehow managed to make Angelina Jolie unsexy. The story is absurd and full of holes. Wait till it’s on TV. Then change the channel.