The Nineties was a golden age for science fiction films. Just start counting: Event Horizon, Starship Troopers, Total Recall, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Independence Day, 12 Monkeys, Mars Attacks, Star Trek First Contact, Stargate. You got the picture four movies ago, but it’s hard to stop with such a great list.
The Nineties also loved virtual reality as a theme – Lawnmower Man, Brainscan… okay, no more lists. Anyway, it was a widely used and abused theme. Virtuosity was one of the latter. If it is a crime to use rubbish science in your future world, Virtuosity is doing donuts in a stolen car on the judge’s lawn.
In some near future a former cop turned convict is used as a guinea pig to test a virtual reality training system which pits the participants against a murderous computer-generated psychopath. Something goes wrong and one of the convicts die. It turns out the marauding psychotic AI, called SID 6.7, has become sentient and wants out. SID hatches a scheme with its programmer to use some sort of nano goo to create a real version of itself. The convict, Parker, who has experience chasing SID in the simulation, is given the option of his freedom if he can track down the rogue AI in the real world.
‘Track down’ is not really the description. SID is not exactly hiding his murderous streak and causes all kinds of hell. It helps that his nano-built body can repair itself with glass, including whole limbs. Parker gives chase through a variety of action sequences and daft plot points. The script uses words like ‘genetic algorithms’ and steals footnotes from computer culture to fake legitimacy. The only thing that saves Virtuosity is its blistering pace.
Well, that and the combined talents of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Crowe shines as the vicious SID, owning every scene he’s in with growing malevolence and clearly loving it. It’s a pity he so rarely plays a villain. Washington is the straight guy to Russell’s maniac, playing Parker in that stoic bloodhound mode he’d use on many movies after this. These two pretty much carry the film, with some help from action sequences and a few brief appearances by William Forsythe. It nonetheless bombed, perhaps because the Nineties were spoiled for choice in good sci fi.[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ] [/column]
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: October 20, 2014