Who's In It: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, August Diehl, Daniel Olbrychski, Andre Braugher
The Basics: Angelina Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative with a specialty in Soviet espionage (the Cold War -- still relevant!) who's just begun cozying into a desk job and settling into a normal life away from the field -- that is, until the day a Russian defector fingers her as a double agent. Wrongly accused, Salt goes on the run in disguise to find her hapless science nerd husband and figure out who's behind a plot to kill the Russian president. You know what that means: New clothes! New hairdos! Makeshift weapons fashioned out of office supplies! And plenty of scenes in which people get killed the old-fashioned way. Okay, more like the over-the-top-'90s action way. Two words: shoe-knife!
What's The Deal: It's violent. It's action-packed. It's silly. It's Salt. (Worst movie title ever?) Some folks may enjoy the harebrained shenanigans of this spy-on-the-lam action thriller as an easy, mindless hour and 40 minutes in a darkened theater, but there's one person who's seemingly not aware of how stupid the whole thing is: Angelina Jolie. Her steely gaze screams, "I know this movie was meant for Tom Cruise, and goshdarnit, I can be Tom Cruise, too!" But where Cruise informs his movie spy persona with a hint of awareness and humor (and let's face it, slightly unhinged but controlled and maybe deadly personas come naturally to him), Jolie is overly actor-serious, especially considering that she's smack dab in the middle of one of the most ridiculous and improbable plots in the history of spy movies. All of which might have worked had the filmmakers had actually intended Salt to be absurd; instead, it's painfully clear that everyone, from director Phillip Noyce to poor Andre Braugher (who shows up and gets all of two throwaway lines, and only at the very end of the film), was convinced they were making a gritty female Bourne flick. And they couldn't have failed more miserably.
Things That Amused Me, Briefly: Aside from the unintentional laughs? Watching the stick-thin Jolie incapacitate all manner of full-sized, fully trained men with leaping wall kicks, fisticuffs, and MacGyvered household objects. And I did love the guy who kills two men with his deadly shoe-knife. But I spent most of the runtime pondering the bizarre series of looks and outfits Jolie had to transform into, with varied results: in her CIA office, prim in a dress suit, she recalls a Hitchcock blonde. On the lam, with her long hair dyed black, she looks vaguely dominatrix-like. But just when things really go off the rails, in comes Jolie disguised as a man wearing a fake rubber face and man hair, resembling a gun-toting Liza Minnelli in menswear.
How Disturbing Is It To See Angelina Jolie in Drag? It's the closest she's ever come to "uglifying" herself for a film role, and it's the strangest single "WTF?" moment in the entire movie -- possibly in her entire career, including the "kissing her brother in public" incident and her "I wear a vial of blood around my neck" phase.
Who Deserves A Shoe-Knife To Their Laptop: Literally no plot point in this twist-filled, conspiracy story makes any kind of real-world sense. It's harder to follow than the plot of Inception, and much less believable. A single name in the credits explains it all: Kurt Wimmer. Why did anyone let the guy who made Ultraviolet write a franchise-starting star vehicle for Angelina Jolie?