Popcorn movies require a lot of hardware these days, but not a lot of firmware.  I can be very forgiving of cheeseball action movies that simply exist to be over-the-top trash (The A-Team, From Paris With Love).  These movies present a lot of impossible action sequences in the midst of generic plots.  When something like Salt comes along and throws a story at me that makes me scratch my head so hard it leaves a hole afterward, then my enjoyment-meter starts to fall no matter how many elaborate booms go off.

Angelina Jolie, the only A-list actress capable of carrying The Salt Identity, plays CIA agent Evelyn Salt.  Her character is introduced as a prisoner being held captive and tortured in North Korea where she is accused of being an American spy.  She continually denies the accusations until her team comes to negotiate her release.  Eventually she is restored to active duty and takes on an interrogation of a supposed Russian spy who elicits stories of a Russian camp under the former Soviet Union that trained young children to become American infiltrators that would learn U.S. culture and language and ultimately take positions in varying areas of the American government. According to him, the Russian president will be assassinated by one of these trained operatives, and soon the entire existence of the United States will be in jeopardy as this faction of assassins was designed specifically to eliminate the land of the free.  His detailed fairy tale comes to a halt when he accuses Evelyn Salt of being the infiltrator.  Immediately, Salt’s cohorts suspect her due to these allegations, and to protect her husband, she decides to run for her life and take on the CIA.

Further developments derail a lot of the initial setup here, but essentially the film tries to take a strong heroine and throw her into a Jason Bourne movie, and slowly turn her into an antihero.  And that’s all fine and good.  I can buy into it—in fact, the film works better as a female-led film, giving Tom Cruise a run for his money as he selected Knight and Day over Salt, and I think Jolie will only reap the benefits.

Salt does one thing particularly well: it moves… fast.  Once this baby sets up the premise for Jolie’s character to hit the skids, the movie essentially evolves into one lengthy action sequence that never slows down until the end credits.  The film only falls apart because of how absolutely preposterous the plot becomes.  The further I went with Salt, the more bologna it threw in my face.  Take note, the story isn’t exactly generic, it’s just too ludicrous for words.  Eventually I began to question the filmmakers’ intent with the storyline.  Does one take it seriously or disregard it altogether in favor of the action?  As gritty as the movie is, I can’t dismiss constant shifts in several characters and plot holes that parade through this thing like it’s Christmas Eve.  Once the mess gets ‘sorted out’ at the end, none of the movie makes much sense.  However, the stunts, pacing, and terrific editing were so impressive to me, and Jolie really keeps her head firmly above water in a man-movie genre, that I’m riding the fence on what I ultimately feel about the whole ordeal.  Can I deny that I was entertained throughout?  No.  Can I say I didn’t get increasingly frustrated with how dopey and slapped together the plot becomes? No.  Take it for what it’s worth.  If you want your brain to be engaged with your stunts, see Inception.  If you want a movie that doesn’t have a brain, but continually pushes you into overdrive as far as action goes, see Salt.  As for me, I’m stuck in neutral here.

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