And so, like a knight riding his valiant steed, producer Joel Silver gallops into town, ready to save the summer blockbuster from itself and a fate worse than Gone In 60 Seconds. Except this time, the noble talent wrangler hasn't found himself a purebred stallion. It's an average, plucky hoofer with more enthusiasm than true ability.
But that's not to say Swordfish is a failure. Silver has wrenched director Dominic 60 Seconds Sena from the feverish grip of Jerry Bruckheimer, tapped him on the noggin a few times, sat him down and told him: "Now, this is how we make an action film"... And as second chances go, it shapes up well.
Like explosions? There's plenty of booms to the buck (including a show-stopping, Matrix-alike explodothon near the start). Like a fresh spin on your car chases? Well, Swordfish gives that old action staple a lift - - literally. And, talking of car chases, there's also an impressively choreographed vehicle-based gunfight that includes more pulse-quickening entertainment than you'll find in the whole of Sena's lame debut.
Of course, no one really watches actioners with hopes of richly rounded characters. You can almost picture Sena flipping through the script, looking for the next action sequence or vehicle to detonate. Yet although Swordfish can't lay claim to anything particularly unique, it does at least try for some unorthodox plotting. It's mostly successful too, even if it does spoil much of the surprise by having John Travolta's character spout off about movies and how he hates the way they normally end. In trying to be clever, it lets itself down slightly.
As, sadly, does Travolta himself. While Swordfish launched at the top of the US box-office, it's likely that audiences were drawn in from the "producer of The Matrix" advertising and the slick trailer rather than for the "star of Battlefield Earth". His performance as Gabriel doesn't quite sink to Battlefield depths, but we've seen Travolta do this try-hard edgy, slightly manic bad guy before - twice before, to be precise, in Broken Arrow and Face/Off.
Still, at least we have Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. Berry makes the most of her slim character, managing to balance both sexiness with complexity and toughness with sensitivity. But it's Jackman who tears away with most of the scenes, even managing to make computer hacking work cinematically and easily proving that X-Men's Wolverine wasn't a fluke: the man, quite simply, is a star.
Swordfish may not the most satisfying action meal you'll ever be faced with, but it's filling enough to be enjoyable while you're in that multiplex seat... And it goes perfectly with popcorn.
Superb action scenes alone don't make a great movie, but this is entertaining enough. Blowing the cobwebs from hacker movies while keeping the crash-slam fans salivating, Swordfish is one of the better offerings in this summer's under-stocked blockbuster lake.