In Salt, Angelina Jolie is slender, muted and awkwardly blonde. We’d swear she was a librarian if at the opening credits, we hadn’t seen her bloodied, cut and capped with a ripe black eye. Now, years later, she’s a government spook one transfer away from a desk job—espionage is a distant second to tucking in a night with her arachnologist husband (August Diehl). But that’s not to be. A Russian spy (Daniel Olbrychski) fingers her as a double agent and before you can say “Hey, fellas, let’s talk this over at the commissary,” Jolie escapes from colleagues Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, leaving behind enough broken bones and busted windows to make the office Christmas party real awkward. Phillip Noyce has made the kind of thriller that skitters after its star playing catch-up. Kurt Wimmer’s script passes for suspense, but robs us of active involvement—the key ingredient in the best action films. Jolie is lean, luminous and inscrutable; our eyes track her pleasurably and passively as she gives and takes punches. The filmmakers are under the delusion that this is fascinating enough business that we never want her story to end. And so, it doesn’t. The road to the video store is paved with aborted franchises. Whatever happened to a film filling its time with awesomeness and taking a bow at the end, a blockbuster that wants only to rock your world without presuming a second date?

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