[Editor's Note: In Sinful Cinema, the House looks back at so-bad-they're-kinda-good movies that have been forgotten for a reason. You call them guilty pleasures; we call them rightfully buried treasures.]
At the dawn of the 2000s, Warner Bros., Joel Silver, and Village Roadshow Pictures had to do something to keep their Matrix momentum going. So, while waiting for the Wachowski siblings to form and polish their tech triumph's sequels, neither of which would arrive until 2003, the studio bigwigs developed Swordfish, a tacky, brazen knockoff they undoubtedly saw as the next best thing. Even opening, pointlessly, with a familiar, pixelated-screen aesthetic before adjusting to 35mm, this risible techno thriller fires so much aww-shit "coolness" at its viewers that, upon its June 2001 release, few likely realized they were being hit with hollow shells. It's all an unwitting realization of the "misdirection" philosophy so reiterated by cyber-villain Gabriel (John Travolta), who talks about Houdini and Dog Day Afternoon like he's a cultural sage with blonde highlights (also rocking berets and traipsing around his LA-nightclub pad, Gabriel trumps Edna Turnblad as Travolta's gayest role). You see, Swordfish thinks it's one heady affair flecked with nifty booms and stunts, but its ideas are as goofily slim as its action is often needless, and director Dominic Sena and writer Skip Woods seem blissfully blind to it all. Their film has all the stylized convolution of The Matrix, but virtually none of the coherence or cerebral stimuli.