It may be 2001, but action maestro Joel Silver (''The Matrix'') is making movies like it's 1989. The Über-producer's latest extravaganza, ''Swordfish,'' starring John Travolta and Hugh Jackman (''X-Men'''s Wolverine), marks a return to the bullets 'n' babes formula that made him one of the most successful and reviled producers in Hollywood. Like such Silver staples as ''Lethal Weapon'' and ''Road House,'' the R-rated ''Swordfish,'' which opens June 8, is chock full of explosions, car chases, and an ample amount of female nudity.
The latest body on display belongs to Halle Berry, one of the few big-name stars to doff her top in a Silver picture. Her decision has already raised eyebrows (among other things). Although she played an eye candy role early in her career -- as an exotic dancer in Silver's ''The Last Boy Scout'' -- it's atypical for an A-list actress to follow an award-winning dramatic performance (Berry received both the Golden Globe and the Emmy for her 1999 HBO biopic ''Introducing Dorothy Dandridge'') by agreeing to bare her breasts in an action film.
According to Silver, it was Berry's ''sophisticated'' onscreen image that convinced him she ought to tackle a sensual role. ''I've known Halle for years, and I felt this was time for her to do this,'' he says of the actress' first topless scene. ''I think it's cool for the character and good for the box office.''
And despite some initial trepidation, Berry eventually agreed with Silver's point of view. ''So much of my life I was afraid to [do a nude scene],'' she says. ''With the success of my Dorothy Dandridge project and the critical acclaim that brought me, I finally felt that I didn't have to prove myself anymore.'' But Berry has discredited the widely reported story that she was paid an extra $500,000 for her topless scene (or ''$250,000 per breast,'' as the film's director, Dominic Sena, told the New York Daily News). She says Sena's remark was a joke.
But critics have noted that along with the film's various shootouts and other large scale acts of violence, there's some less than sensitive treatment of its female characters. For example, Travolta's master spy character, Gabriel, tests ex-con computer pro Jackman's mettle by forcing him, at gunpoint, to hack into a complex program within 60 seconds -- while he's being fellated by a nameless blonde woman.