Retro Film Review: Hackers (1995)

in film •  2 months ago  (edited)


Hollywood's inability to tackle current cultural trends became apparent in mid-1990s with couple of films that had new and "hip" concepts of Internet and cyberspace as part of their plots. Results were disappointing, to say the least, mostly because Hollywood film makers showed barely any understanding of the phenomenon. One of exceptions was Hackers, 1995 teen-oriented thriller directed by Iain Softley, and mostly because the subject was never intended to be taken seriously.

Protagonist of the film is Dade Murphy (played by Jonny Lee Miller), 18-year old high school student in New York. Reaching 18th birthday has a special meaning for him because seven years ago he had managed to hack Wall Street computer systems and cause market collapse. Banned from touching computers until reaching 18, Dade relishes in new freedom, takes pseudonym "Zero Cool" and joins elite group of computer hackers. Their life consists of occasional cyber-prank, hanging out in cybercaffes and video-arcades, but the real adventure begins when Joey (played by Jesse Bradford), one of young hackers, stumbles on top secret files belonging to huge corporation. Joey is soon afterwards arrested by Secret Service, but the diskette containing files is hidden. This object is sought by Eugene Belford a.k.a. "Plague" (played by Fisher Stevens), former hacker who now works as computer security expert for huge corporation. "Plague" has devised brilliant plan to commit mass cyber-theft and plant the evidence to unsuspecting young hackers.

British director Iain Softley didn't know much of computers, hackers or Internet, and this ignorance led him to take over-creative approach to those phenomena. It turned out to be wise decision, because realistic portrayal of overweight geeks in spectacles spending hours in zombie-like trance in front of displays is hardly recipe for commercially successful film. Instead of that, protagonists of Hackers are good-looking teens, dressed in "hip" clothes, spending free time in "hip" underground clubs and displaying "hip" liberal attitudes and "hip" sexual orientations. Their computers are able to turn their hacking activities into visual spectacle worthy of most expensive Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, all that hardly has anything to do with real life (except for few lines borrowed from 1980s "Hacker Manifesto"), but audience would hardly care. Softley confidently directs plot and protagonists, and nice look of the film is matched with good acting. The most impressive role is one played by Fisher Stevens; few actors have portrayed such original and interesting villain in recent memory. Lorraine Bracco is, on the other hand, dreadful in the role of villain's confederate. Despite that flaw, Hackers should be recommended as an entertaining movie with potential for cult status in a time when technological progress makes all its "cool" gadgets obsolete.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on April 10th 2003)


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