Swordfish (film)

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Swordfish movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDominic Sena
Produced by
Written bySkip Woods
Music by
CinematographyPaul Cameron
Edited byStephen E. Rivkin
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • June 8, 2001 (2001-06-08)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$102 million[1]
Box office$147.1 million[1]

Swordfish is a 2001 American action thriller film directed by Dominic Sena, written by Skip Woods, produced by Joel Silver, and starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones and Sam Shepard. The film centers on Stanley Jobson, an ex-con and computer hacker who is targeted for recruitment into a bank robbery conspiracy because of his formidable hacking skills.


Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is a cyber-hacker who became notorious for infecting the FBI's Carnivore program with a computer virus. Stanley's parole forbids him from accessing the internet and computers while his ex-wife Melissa, an alcoholic and part-time porn star, has issued a restraining order against him. This also prevents him from seeing his only daughter Holly.

Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry) persuades him to work for Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), who threatens him into cracking a secure U.S. D.O.D. server. After the hack, Gabriel offers Jobson $10 million to program a multi-headed worm, a "hydra", to siphon $9.5 billion from government slush funds.

Stanley begins work on the worm, learning that Gabriel leads Black Cell, a clandestine organization created by J. Edgar Hoover to launch retaliatory attacks against terrorists that threaten the United States. He also privately discovers Ginger is a DEA agent working undercover and further is surprised to discover a corpse that looks like Gabriel.

After he goes to see Holly home from school, Stanley discovers that he is being followed by FBI agent J.T. Roberts (Don Cheadle), who had previously arrested him. Roberts, though monitoring Stanley closely, is more interested in Gabriel as he does not appear on any government database, and after learning that another hacker, Axl Torvalds (Rudolf Martin), had been killed by Gabriel's men, warns Stanley to be cautious. Stanley opts to secretly code a backdoor in his hydra that reverses the money transfer after a short period.

Meanwhile, United States Senator Jim Reisman (Sam Shepard), who oversees Black Cell, learns the FBI has started tracking Gabriel and orders him to stand down. Gabriel refuses and narrowly defeats a hit team dispatched against him by Reisman. In retaliation, Gabriel personally kills Reisman in revenge and continues his plan.

Stanley delivers the hydra to Gabriel and leaves to see Holly, only to find that Gabriel has killed Melissa, kidnapped Holly and framed him for Melissa's death alongside her husband and porn producer. Stanley has no choice but to participate in a bank heist to get Holly back. At the site of the heist, Gabriel and his men storm a branch and secure its employees and customers as hostages, fitting each of them with ball-bearing-based explosives similar to Claymore mines.

When police and FBI surround the branch, Gabriel takes Stanley to a nearby coffee shop across the street to meet with Roberts, but Gabriel spends the time discussing the film Dog Day Afternoon and the nature of misdirection. Once back in the bank, Gabriel has one of his men escort a hostage to demonstrate the situation where a sharpshooter kills the man but as other agents pull the hostage away from the bank, the bomb detonates, ravaging the buildings and vehicles on the street and killing several people, a scene shown in medias res.

Gabriel instructs Stanley to launch the hydra and turns Holly over to him once completed. However, the back door triggers before they can leave the bank, leading to Stanley being recaptured while Holly is rescued. Gabriel threatens to kill Ginger, who he knows is a DEA agent, unless Stanley re-siphons the money back to a Monte Carlo bank. Although Stanley complies, Gabriel shoots Ginger.

Gabriel and his men load the hostages onto a bus and demand a plane wait for them at the local airport, but while en route, the bus is lifted off by a S-64 Aircrane and deposited on the roof of a local skyscraper. Gabriel deactivates the bombs and departs with his surviving men on a waiting helicopter, which Stanley shoots down using a rocket-propelled grenade from the bus.

Roberts takes Stanley to verify a corpse they found, believing Gabriel was a Mossad agent while there is no record of a DEA agent named Ginger Knowles. Stanley recognizes the corpse as the one he discovered earlier and personally realizes that the whole scenario was a deception. The police cannot find Ginger's corpse and it's revealed that she was wearing a bulletproof vest and was working with Gabriel all along. Gabriel escaped via a different route. Despite Stanley not telling the police that Gabriel and Ginger are still alive, Roberts arranges for Stanley to have full custody of Holly, where they depart to places elsewhere.

In Monte Carlo, Gabriel and Ginger withdraw the stolen money and later watch as a yacht at sea explodes. Over the film's credits, a news report reveals the destruction of the yacht, carrying a known terrorist, as the third such incident in as many weeks.



The film received a great deal of press initially because it featured Halle Berry's first topless scene. She was paid an extra $500,000 on top of her $2 million fee to appear topless in this film. Critics said the scene looked forced, thrown into the film just to garner press. Berry said she did the topless scene, knowing it was gratuitous, to overcome the fear of appearing nude onscreen.[2]

As of August 2020, 25% of the 138 reviews compiled on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, with an average rating of 4.35/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Swordfish is big on explosions, but critics dislike how it skimps on plot and logic. Also, the sight of a person typing at a computer just isn't that interesting."[3] In a review for The New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote:[4]

With its blasé blend of bogus international intrigue and action-for-action's-sake, Swordfish suggests a James Bond movie stripped of humor. True, there are a few moments of wit, like the opening sequence. But the dominant tone masquerading as humor is a snide, rancid nihilism devoid of laughs, unless wholesale destruction and gloating stupidity are what tickle your funny bone.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed over $147 million in worldwide box office receipts on a production budget of $102 million.[1] John Travolta's performance in the film earned him a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor (also for Domestic Disturbance).

DVD alternative ending[edit]

The DVD version contains an alternative ending wherein Ginger is told in the bank that the account is already almost empty, alluding to the possibility that Stanley has played one final trick on them and taken the money himself. When Ginger tells Gabriel about this, he takes it in stride and asks her to join him on a trip to Istanbul. In a companion scene to the alternate ending, Stanley is shown on a trip with his daughter in a brand new RV. While eating at a diner, Stanley is shown transferring billions of dollars to various charities before continuing his trip.


The soundtrack for Swordfish was produced by Paul Oakenfold, under Village Roadshow and Warner Bros. and distributed through London Sire Records, Inc. It contains 15 tracks. The film's orchestral score was written by Christopher Young with several electronic additions by Paul Oakenfold. Fragments from the score were added to the official soundtrack, but were remixed by Oakenfold. A more complete release was issued as an award promo, which is known for its rarity.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "Swordfish (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  2. ^ Kirkland, Bruce. "Halle Berry bares her soul". Canoe.ca. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  3. ^ "Swordfish (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 8, 2001). "June 2001 Review". The New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  5. ^ "Swordfish". soundtrack.net.

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