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Time Out New York Project: Issue #773, July 22–28, 2010
Dir. Phillip Noyce. 2010. PG-13. 99mins. Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
An us-versus-them ass-kicker that turns on kookily contrived Russkie-bashing? Is it 1985 again? Spies we could believe, but assassins? Apparently, several of our hammer-and-sickle comrades have been training a cadre of sleeper agents (number one was some guy named Lee Harvey Oswald) who’ve been planted stateside to pass as American until “Day X.” That’s when the agents go into action, Presidents are assassinated and a new global superpower is born. CIA operative Evelyn Salt (Jolie) might very well be one of these USSR-adoring commies, or she could be as USA as apple pie.
Part of the fun in Salt’s early scenes comes from watching Jolie and her scrumptious lips tease both possibilities. Sure, she runs from the government handler (Ejiofor) who wants to interrogate her, but it’s all to make sure her fiancé and their cute little dog are safe and sound. Or is it? Fear not, a definitive answer is given midway through — after which things slowly start to deteriorate despite the best efforts of the star and her behind-the-scenes collaborators.
Director Phillip Noyce is an old, um, salt at this kind of amped-up action movie nonsense (see his two Jack Ryan entries, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger), and he keeps things grounded in physical reality — most notably during a D.C. freeway chase where our (anti?) heroine hops between speeding trucks. But Jolie must eventually become a comic-book supergirl impervious to explosions and bullets, all the better to set up a Bourne-like franchise by the final fade-out. Whether there’ll be a Salt: First Blood Part II of course depends on those trusty ol’ box-office receipts. That’s about as American as you can get.—Keith Uhlich