Notes from the back row 

Salt is all Jolie

My fishing buddy Mark thinks it's weird that I know the names of Angelina Jolie's children, and it probably is, but Angelina is some kind of amazing. She's like the Chuck Norris of chicks - so wise she can speak Braille, so nimble she can pull wheelies on a unicycle. And Angelina will never suffer a heart attack because her heart would never be foolish enough to attack her.

She's a mattress-lipped, tattooed badass, yet the world's most recognizable woman also has six kids under the age of 10 and still manages to bang off a pretty decent espionage thriller in Salt, which opens this Friday.

Word is that Salt was supposed to star Tom Cruise but the script was 'rewritten' for a female lead. That has the militant feminist community divided over whether a strong female role is good or bad for their cause when all the writers did was go through the script with a sharpie putting an "s" in front of every "he."

The good news is the rest of us don't need to give a hoot about any of that because Angelina kills it as Evelyn Salt, a no-nonsense CIA operative who gets tapped - I guess "accused" is a better word, so let's go with "a no-nonsense CIA operative who gets accused" - as a deeply-rooted sleeper spy for the Russians.

To prove her innocence, Salt oddly decides to go on the run and while we ponder her motives she battles through a Bourne-esque flurry of old-school fight sequences, slo-mo glamour and pretty gnarly torture. Although director Philip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence, Patriot Games) doesn't break any new ground he still churns out a solid effort with great attention to detail right down to the costumes. There are costars who are decent but Salt is all Angelina and she delivers as always, turning in a performance with just enough understatement while still playing along with the action genre style. She did a lot of her own stunts and takes a few punches to the face as well.

Angelina is an ass-kicker, no doubt, but she's also a real actress, the best America has right now. And while she doesn't win the Oscar so much anymore (like she won in 1999 for best-supporting in Girl, Interrupted) her flicks are a hell of a lot more fun to watch than well-acted snooze fests like Kate Winslet's The Reader or Meryl Streep's boring-ass Doubt.

Salt is not an Oscar contender but Angelina is playing in a much higher league anyway. She might be the female Chuck Norris on film but she's more like Mother Theresa in real life. She helps people, refugees torn from their homes, landmine kids with missing limbs and people who have really been screwed over by life. Angelina appears and listens and smiles and helps and gives a shit and leaves the world a better place. She and Brad Pitt even donated a million bucks to earthquake relief in Haiti.

She's a UN ambassador, she has the Jolie-Pitt foundation in Cambodia, she's been all over the world sleeping in dirt-floored huts and connecting with people. The woman is basically an angel - the word 'angel' is even right there in her name for Christ's sake - and Angelina will be getting a well-deserved Nobel Peace prize one day. And look damn fine doing it.

And yet the woman whose last name means "pretty" in French remains one of the most bankable action stars working today, male or female, because at the end of the day it's all about hot chicks with guns isn't it? Movies are supposed to be fantasy, both fun and entertaining. Angelina movies are all that and bottle of cream soda.

The kids' names, by the way, are Knox, Vivienne, Shilo, Pax, Zahara and Maddox, and their mother is a goddamn saint. Go see Salt.




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