Cyberpunk Review » Virtuosity

March 6, 2006


Year: 1995

Directed by: Brett Leonard

Written by: Eric Bernt

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Lt. Parker Barnes: Denzel Washington
  • SID 6.7: Russell Crowe
  • Dr. Madison Carter: Kelly Lynch
  • Rating: 6 out of 10



    Overview: Overview: Sometimes we find movies are able to rise above truly absurd stories and transform movies that had no business being watchable into something enjoyable. This is what we find with Virtuosity. Virtuosity has a story with is barely bothers to try to hold together, but yields memorable performances by all the major leads. The pacing is at least fast enough that its possible that some unsuspecting viewers might not notice some of the absurdities presented.




    The Story: In the near future, Crowe plays SID 6.7, a virtual reality (VR) composite of 200 personalities, each and every one a killer. His purpose is to serve as the key bad guy in a new police officer training simulation. To test the simulation the corporation uses former cops – now criminals – to test the hyper-real VR training system. Former Lt. Parker Barnes, convicted for killing a mass murderer (and some bystanders) who murdered his family is one of the lucky ginea pigs. After entering the simulation, all is not as is seems, as SID 6.7, who has grown sentient, has modified the safety controls to allow him to actually kill the test subjects. Barnes’ partner is killed and Barnes barely escapes the Simulation.




    After the corporation decides to shut the project down, Dr. Lindenmeyer (played by Stephen Spinella), SID 6.7’s creator finds a way to save SID 6.7. It just so happens that another scientist in the corporation has just completed a nano-android – the first of its kind – and is now wondering how to embed it with sentience (yes, they really expect us to buy this – companies always have magical projects just hanging around that anyone can get access to!). Lindenmeyer tricks the scientist into uploading Crowe’s program into the nano-droid, which serves to free SID 6.7 from his simulated cage.




    It turns out that one of SID 6.7’s “dominant” personalities which he has been created by is none other than the murderer of Parker’s family. Parker is offered a pardon if he can capture or kill SID 6.7. Parker is joined by Dr. Madison Carter (Kelly Lynch), an expert on serial killers. From this point on, we get a police-serial killer chase movie with a good bit of cool nano-droid restoration visuals. The rationale for why the police can’t stop SID 6.7, or why Dr. Carter must join parker are both pretty weak. More interesting is the fact that the police never seem to bother showing up when SID 6.7 decides to kill people in front of massive crowds. But such is life – again, at least the leads all play this far more believable than this film has a write to be.




    The Bottom Line: The VR visuals are decent, the acting is very good, but the story really doesn’t hold together. The worse part of the story is that the the nano-droid and VR sentience are essentially posed as magic. We get no explanation from the key cyberpunk aspects of this, such as how 200 real-life personalities from dead serial killers are embedded in a VR simulation, nor are we are given an explanation for how this incredible nano-droid is developed, or could be developed while not having a purpose. Still, Russell Crowe as a very memorable crazed villain and Denzel Washington both put in great performances, and are very well supported by Kelly Lynch, William Forsythe (a crusty police chief and Parker’s former boss) and William Fichtner (who plays a creepy corporate type). In short, they make the movie worth watching.


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    February 16, 2007

    Coding Horror said (trackback):

    What’s In a Version Number, Anyway?…

    I remember when Microsoft announced that Windows 4.0 would be known as Windows 95. At the time, it seemed like a radical, unnecessary change — naming software with years instead of version numbers? Inconceivable! How will users of Windows……

    March 29, 2007

    David said:

    The SID idea was interesting, but the movie makes Russel Crowe (making movies making songs n faaightin’ raawn’ the waahrld) look like a doofas. Guess you gotta start off somewhere though…

    September 10, 2007

    Marc McKenzie said:

    I have to admit that this movie is a guilty pleasure. Yeah, Brett Leonard ain’t Speilberg, and the story is paper-light (although there are some interesting nuggets in there)…but it is fun to watch.

    It is also a showcase for Russel Crowe and Denzel Washington (who are back together in the upcoming AMERICAN GANGSTER). Crowe as SID 6.7 brings an over-the-top mentality to the character that, well, works. And Denzel does play Parker Barnes as a sympathic anti-hero (hmmm…not sure about that myself, but I’ll leave it as is).

    No, it isn’t a terrific film, but as bubble gum, it works. Not a sterling example of cinema, but it ain’t a stinking piece of crap, either.

    September 24, 2007

    Sascha said:

    I enjoyed this movie very great and Sid is a ruthless cold-blooded bastard that you can’t help but root for sometimes. The best part of this movie is seeing him get filled full of holes and all he has to do is gobble down glass to regenerate himself. Someone must’ve put a lot of thought into that concept, cause it works well for the action sequences where Washington’s character has to pump Sid full of lead just to slow him down…the bullets don’t kill him, but it keeps Sid off his toes long enough, just like the T-1000! Earlier you mentioned in your review how they were able to get the personalities of notorious killers into Sid’s programming.

    *Dr. Madison Carter mentioned something about using genetic algarithms of something of that nature to embed themselves into Sid’s programming. That’s pure science fiction, but it makes good for the concept.

    I’m still working on the theory behind the creation of the nan-synthetic droid plot.

    P.S.: Loved Parker’s Sig Sauer in this movie with the multiple laser controls…that was tight!

    November 15, 2010

    anonymous said:

    –IS IT TRUE?

    CROWE, turning down WESTWORLD and on board to
    break ranks with RED China YOU-genocide concealing,
    franchise slum mafia Hollywood????


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