Rated PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Iain Softley. Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Fisher Stevens, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, Renoly Santiago, Wendell Pierce, Alberta Watson, Lorraine Bracco, Penn Jillette.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 22, 1995
Hackers is an afterschool special for the X-Generation. The earlier years Softley (Backbeat) spent in the video trenches serve him well here, allowing Hackers to rise above the level of sub-mediocrity into the realm of truly inspired, insipid eye (and ear) candy. A roller-coaster ride of trippy computer animation, outlandishly ridiculous plotting, and fantasy cyber-fluff, this film has about as much to do with hacking, phreaking, and general Net-oriented misbehavior as one of its characters, the ironically named Emmanuel Goldstein, has to do with the real Emmanuel Goldstein. Real-world hackers tend to resemble the computer nerds you knew in high school, only with baggier pants and nicer laptops. The seven core hooligans here look more like they just stepped out of a Ridley Scott/Gianni Versace/Anna Sui fashion explosion. Framed by an older, more conservatively attired hacker/security systems expert (Stevens) for a crime they didn't commit (something to do with a killer computer virus capable of capsizing a fleet of oil tankers), they must put aside their petty braggadocio and band together to, you know, save the world! Ridiculous it may seem … and overwhelmingly ridiculous it is, but Softley's lightning-fast editing and Blade Runner-meets-ClubKid-heaven sets manage to keep your mind off the glaring, frequent plot holes and on the screen where the action (and pretty, swirling colors) are. The young ensemble cast is uniformly well chosen, both for their boisterous, goony line-readings and their charisma (a special Best Pouty Lips Award goes instantly and irrevocably to newcomer Angelina Jolie). As always in films of this stripe, a marketable soundtrack is half the battle, and in this category, at least, Hackers rises above, with a wonderfully well-chosen mix that grabs everything from techno-superstars Orbital and the Prodigy to the brooding ambience of Underworld and Leftfield. Needless to say, the whole thing comes off feeling like a giant, 100-plus minutes music video co-sponsored by Sega, MTV, and Apple Computers. Silly, predictable, and, dare I say it, oddly endearing, Hackers is the first film I've seen in a long while that annoyed me so much I actually enjoyed it.