Cyberpunk Review » Hardwired

April 13, 2010


Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2009

Directed by: Ernie Barbarash

Written by: Michael Hurst

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Luke Gibson: Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Virgil Kirkhill: Val Kilmer
  • Hal: Michael Ironside
  • Punk Red: Tatiana Maslany
  • Punk Blue: Juan Riedinger
  • Keyboard: Chad Krowchuk
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

    Overview: I heard about this movie from the Columbia House DVD club, then bought it after reading the description. After doing some research about it and learning about it being released direct to home video, I got to watch it… and found out why it went direct to video. To take some of the best cyberpunk themes, add some major star-power, then squander it on what would have worked better as a television pilot episode only shows that cyberpunk still has Hollywood seeing $$$ despite recent failures like Repo Men.


    The Story:

    Hardwired Cityscape at Night

    Just a few years from now, corporations control and observe everything.

    Luke Gibson (Gooding) and his pregnant wife get involved in a car accident. She dies on the scene, and he is hospitalized with brain damage (amnesia) and no insurance. The Hope Corporation finances his brain operation, which involves a Psi-Comp implant on his visual lobe. He soon starts having hallucinations, which are commercials that only he can see and hear. But hackers manage to tap into the implant and give him messages which lead him to Keyboard, a former Hope employee turned hacker, who has information that can stop The Hope Corporation’s plans for the implants.

    Psi-Comp Implant

    Cyberpunk themes… they got ‘em. There’s little question about this being cyberpunk; It’s practically dripping with cy-punk themes throughout. The Psi-Comp implants can be used to control people, either with persistent commercials or a painful “fail-safe” that can blow your head off, depending on how Hope Co. feels about your finding out about the truth about them. The hackers try to free Luke from Hope’s control over him by using the implant themselves. Hope Co’s. cameras everywhere watching most everything that goes on. There’s even holographic projections of corporate brands above and on cityscapes and landmarks, owing to how corporations had bail out governments due to their failed bailouts. About the only thing missing would be the dystopic atmosphere, though through sound bytes from televisions indicate that the dystopia is financial.


    So what could (or did) possibly go wrong? With Hardwired’s abundance of cy-punk themes, it might be hard to imagine that this could not be the next Blade Runner. That might be the big problem: It’s trying to be the next Blade Runner. Not that aspiring to be such a classic is a bad thing, it’s just most cyberpunk movies lately are trying to be Blade Runner, and they try so hard that they ultimately fail to be even a good movie. Let’s try to make a good movie first, then you can try being Blade Runner. Best way to start is to actually do something with those themes. It’s obvious the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all. Maybe they should hang out here for a while…

    Hardwire Cyberpunks

    Are you certain that the one on the left is Punk Blue and not Punk Green?

    Another problem is more “technical,” the operation scene when Luke gets the implant. Inside the operating room, Luke is sitting upright, but a scene through a security cam (assumed to be in the same O.R.) shows him lying down, face up, even though the doctor just finished drilling into the back of Luke’s neck. It’s not like every movie is one-hundred percent accurate, but such noticeable goofs early on can make the rest of the film less believable. Also, the hackers use the chip to send Luke information a la “augmented reality.” His eyes were not replaced with holographic projectors, so we should not be able to see the transmitted data in front of his face. Seeing that stuff as Luke sees it, first-person like, would have worked better.


    Conclusion: It’s hard to put Hardwired down because it has a great idea, but some bad implementations may have doomed it to direct-to-video hell and lack of reviews. The only other review called it “cheesy, seriously cheesy.” Plus, the ending practically begs “please let us become a franchise,” though it might serve better as a pilot for some futuristic TV series. Maybe.

    So much potential…

    Virgil Kirkhill (Val Kilmer)

    It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, Man-machine Interface, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by Mr. Roboto.


    April 13, 2010

    Catherine from Briefgold said:

    It really does sound like there is so much potential here, maybe if they had purposefully tried to be cheesy they would have at least succeeded in that!

    April 14, 2010

    El Phantasmo said:

    LOL thank you for that still of Val Kilmer in this. He was as hammy as this movie was cheesy and really hilarious.

    April 15, 2010

    BoomerNo8 said:

    I just watched the movie. For me it´s cool. Ok, not the best CP flick of all time. But it was fun to watch. And I haven´t felt that they tried to be Blade Runner. In fact only Blade Runner is like Blade Runner :-)
    But thanks anyway for telling me about it, otherwise I haven´t watched it….

    April 17, 2010

    autopilot said:

    This movie keeps coming up in cy-punk/hacker movie searches, but I’m scared away from buying it do to the reviews. It looks neat, and the premise is neat, but I’ve filled up my quotient for bad Cuba Gooding Jr movies.

    autopilot said:

    April 20, 2010

    Steel said:

    A somewhat entertaining flick but I wouldn’t recommend spending much, or any, money on it.

    I think “the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all” just about sums it up. The setting wasn’t believable.

    April 22, 2010

    Sean said:

    “the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all”
    I think that’s the bigger problem that goes well outside this movie.
    Everyone knows what cyberpunk is, but the ideas don’t develop, they just keep getting reproduced over and over.
    Not only there is lack of innovation, there’s also lack of passion.
    Today you draw a portrait of JC Denton and put it on Deviantart, you farm giant spiders to get some neocredits for a new implant, and you can’t wait to buy a BCI so you can surf the internets while you’re jerking off. Now that you’ve got it all, you don’t really care about an ultimate cyberpunk dream.

    April 24, 2010

    autopilot said:

    “and you can’t wait to buy a BCI so you can surf the internets while you’re jerking off. Now that you’ve got it all, you don’t really care about an ultimate cyberpunk dream.”

    I’d say you’re already living it.

    April 26, 2010

    String said:

    It was painfully obvious that Val Kilmer was never on the same set as the rest of the actors, that his scenes were shot in parallel, probably in some distant studio, and inserted during the edit stage. There are no direct interactions between Kilmer and the actors — everything is done via teleconference or else through some digital manipulation (look carefully at the final scene and see how Cuba never directly looks at Val). I know CP movies often suffer from “lowbudgetitis”, but this one was painful to watch. Even the DVD commentaries were awkward as Cuba Gooding tried to speak well of Val Kilmer even though it was as if they’d never met in person. As a final observation on the poorness of the production, as much as I loved Val wig in this one, it’s a completely different hairdo than the one on the cover of the DVD (a picture from his less bloated days).

    June 26, 2010

    DAvid GEntle said:

    Isn’t Hardwired already a Cyberpunk novel?

    June 13, 2011

    R3ND3R said:

    Am I the only one to notice the static (and apparently uncredited) appearance of Lance Henriksen as Randolph Hope, CEO of the Hope corporation, at the end of the film ?

    April 23, 2012

    capnsid said:

    That’d be a ‘no’. I noticed it immediately; there’s only one Lance Henrikesn. Plus, if you look at the end of the credits, a ’still from Millennium’ line appears, so I’d geuss that’s a Millennium pic.

    In addition, is anybody paying attention to the names? Gibson (i.e., William), Carter Burke (i.e., Paul Reiser in Aliens), plus Traxler Vukovich (i.e., Paul Winfield and your man Lance from Terminator). That’s about as subtle a ref-crime as the ‘Gibson’ computer in Hackers.

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