WITH a veritable conveyor belt of male action heroes on the big screen it makes a refreshing change to see a woman kicking butt with as much gusto as the guys.

The uncompromising Angelina Jolie is a perfect choice for CIA agent turned fugitive Evelyn Salt - a role originally written for a man. When Tom Cruise turned the part down, Edwin became Evelyn and the A-list Ms Jolie was snapped up.

A highly respected agent, Evelyn Salt appears to be the perfect patriot but when a Russian defector accuses her of being a Soviet spy who is set to kill the Russian president in New York in a matter of days she is left with just one option - run.

Drawing on her years of experience as a covert operative, Salt manages to keep one step ahead of her CIA pursuers - including her old boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber), who can’t believe she is a double agent - as she tries to find out what has happened to her missing husband. Unfortunately her efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives.

Putting her sexually objectified Lara Croft incarnation in the Tomb Raider franchise to shame, Jolie’s Salt is as hard as nails as she leaps down lift shafts, uses a taser in a moving cop car, bounces off bridges onto moving trucks and engages in hand-to-hand combat.

It is to Angelina and director Phillip Noyce’s credit that we end up rooting for Salt even when we think she might be a baddie.

With her tough and unrelenting attitude, she is the closest we’ve had to a female Bourne even though her fragile physique calls into question the realism of some of her fight scenes. The plot doesn’t quite hit the mark at times and some dreamy flashback sequences were ill-advised but Jolie’s strong screen presence as she moves from demure blonde to deadly brunette carry this story through.

Her desperate escape from CIA HQ and the subsequent chase from her apartment form the most gripping sequence as her colleagues, including the ever watchable Schreiber, fail to outwit her.

With it’s open conclusion leaving the story ripe for a follow-up, we can look forward to another dose of Salt.