**(out of four)
I suppose the best thing I can say about “Salt” — apart from praising its status as “not terrible” — is that it made me buy Angelina Jolie as an action star, and actually had me looking forward to the scenes in which she’s in full ass-kicking mode. This could be because the action sequences (as staged by Phillip Noyce, the erratic director of movies as wildly different as “Sliver” and “The Saint,” and “The Quiet American” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence”) are at least competently filmed and edited, or it could be because the non-action scenes are just that boring and derivative. Either way, for the first time, I’m open-minded about Jolie as the femme action star du jour.
There are things in this film that will force you to re-evaluate what you thought was possible in cinema. This rare quality has inspired comparisons to “The Matrix,” but consensus seems to be that “Inception” is exponentially more effective, mature and polished in the manner in which it goes about blowing your mind completely apart. And I’m not just referring to the cool visuals you’ve seen in the trailers (zero-gravity gun fights, cities that roll over onto themselves, etc.) — “Inception” is a veritable symphony for the senses, filled with countless images and sounds and ideas that will be immediately seared into your memory. It’s a trip, in every sense of the word.
Alright, how do you screw this up? With a decent budget, a green light for an R rating, and a capable producer in Robert Rodriguez, this relaunching of the “Predator” franchise should have been at least a minor success. Anyone with a shred of filmmaking skill should have been able to craft these elements into something resembling passable popcorn entertainment, yet even mediocrity appears to have been too tall an order for the aptly named Nimrod Antal (best known for “Vacancy” and “Armored”).
“THE KILLER INSIDE ME”
“The Killer Inside Me” is largely a genre exercise, and if its ambitions ended there, it would succeed as a competent but ultimately forgettable pulp fiction homage. It’s well-photographed and well-acted, and the much of the dialogue is razor-sharp. The story, taking place in the early 1950s and involving a psychotic west Texas sheriff’s deputy who becomes entangled with a prostitute in the course of a small-time criminal scheme, is perfectly acceptable, as far as this kind of thing goes.