Back when the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, there were lots of movies about the evil Russians out to destroy America. This type of simplistic good-vs.evil thriller is back with Salt, a very mediocre action movie.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is an undercover agent with the C.I.A. She has a loving husband, Mike Krause (August Diehl), a scientist who studies insects. She gets along with her supervisor Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber). And, apart from her being caught in North Korea and swapped for someone else two years before the movie's main action, that's all we know about her.

Some new information is offered by Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), a Russian defector who turns himself in to the C.I.A. He says there's a Russian sleeper agent who will kill the Russian leader, in New York for a state funeral, the following day. And he says the name of this agent is Evelyn Salt. Salt, fearing that if her cover has been compromised then her husband is in danger, runs. Agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) suspects Orlov was telling the truth, but Winter maintains her innocence. And the chase is on!

Salt feels like two movies strung together. In the first half of the movie Salt spends most of the time fleeing: on foot, on a motorcycle, even hopping along the tops of trucks speeding along the highway. About halfway through the movie, about the same time she dyes her hair, Salt goes on the offensive, able to defeat just about everyone in her path with guns, karate, and numerous flying kicks. Comparisons to Jason Bourne and James Bond are quite appropriate.

Those comparisons don't work for the quality of Salt. None of these characters have any depth or real personality (a pity, as Jolie and Schrieber are very good actors), and the action isn't all that exciting. Worse, Salt employs several cliches like slow-motion and flashbacks -- and uses them often. And the movie's ending feels like someone didn't know how to wrap this up and simply stopped writing. While Salt isn't terrible, it isn't terribly entertaining either.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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