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Snoop Dog-Eat-Dog

Salt (2010)

Andrew Schwartz/Columbia Pictures

Playing the real-world spy version of her “Tomb Raider” character, Angelina Jolie goes on a butt-kicking rampage in “Salt.” The spectacle of Angie torching and gunning down baddies while clad in a long-flowing overcoat or tight business attire is the primary selling point for Phillip Noyce’s absurd, twisty thriller, one that flirts at genuine intrigue before giving in to the worst impulses of subpar spy fiction.

When we first meet C.I.A. operative Evelyn Salt (Ms. Jolie), she’s badly beaten and writhing in pain on the floor of a North Korean prison. Two years later, back in Washington D.C., we find her interrogating Russian bigwig defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), who outs her as a Russian spy. Declaring her innocence, she takes off running, leading her former peers on a frenzied, extended chase that takes them from D.C. to Manhattan and back.

For a while, the film gets by on the doubts spurred by Salt’s conduct, which calls her trustworthiness as a heroine into question. Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay rejects the straightforward woman-on-the-run approach, smartly propping up the disorienting possibility that Salt might actually be a covert Russian agent. The action scenes are thus given an edge spurred by the ambiguous delineation of good and bad.

Still, there’s only so long the is-she-or-isn’t-she game can be played before growing tired, and the movie eventually succumbs to such utter convoluted nonsense that all stabs at a complex, gritty feel are lost. Put simply, without so much as breaking a sweat, Salt takes on a task that’d be too much for Jack Bauer himself. Mr. Noyce shoots the speedy, well-choreographed action with a sharp eye for brisk, precise details, but it too winds up at a dramatic place so devoid of reason that the proverbial brain check at the door is hardly enough.

So, if you’re looking for a satisfying, convincing narrative, look elsewhere. If, however, you want nothing more from your summer entertainment than Ms. Jolie back on the warpath, guns blazing with a scowl affixed to her face, “Salt” offers an inviting refuge from the sweltering heat.


Opens on July 22 in the United States and on Aug. 20 in Britain.

Directed by Phillip Noyce; written by Kurt Wimmer; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by Stuart Baird and John Gilroy; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Scott Chambliss; costumes by Sarah Edwards; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Angelina Jolie (Evelyn Salt), Liev Schreiber (Ted Winter), Chiwetel Ejiofor (William Peabody), Daniel Olbrychski (Orlov), Andre Braugher (Secretary of Defense) and August Diehl (Mike Krause).


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