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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Retro Review: Virtuosity (1995)

Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Kelly Lynch 
Genre: Science Fiction Action 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $24 million

Plot: A former cop who has been imprisoned for murdering the psychopath who killed his family, Parker Barnes is recruited to test out a new virtual reality program where the goal is to apprehend a computer-generated being called SID 6.7, who has been modelled on hundreds of deranged criminals. When SID manages to escape into the real world, Barnes must capture or destroy him before the soulless entity can go on a killing spree

'Not Even Denzel Or Russell Crowe Can Salvage This Derivative Action Thriller'

Virtuosity is a film that isn't as good as I thought it would be when I first saw it in my early 20s. There is a cheapness to it that really brings this movie down. Directed by the same person who did The Lawnmower Man - another film I didn't enjoy- I revisited it recently and saw that the complaints that people had towards it, were justified and merited.

The plot and story are strikingly reminiscent of that of 1993's Demolition Man, where cop John Spartan is thawed years later and criminal/killer Simon Phoenix is on the loose and Spartan has to recapture or be it apprehend him. This film takes bits of Demolition Man, Terminator 2 Judgement Day and Strange Days & practically weaves them in, but without much thought going into the characterisation and development of the narrative, properly. 

Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe do well in their roles, but with Crowe especially, he came off too much like a Saturday Morning cartoon stock villain with very hammy, over-the-top, heavily exaggerated acting. His character annoyed me, greatly. The plot of Virtuosity is practically non-existent, whilst Washington's characterisation as Parker Barnes was under-developed, but I'd lay the blame squarely at the feet of the writer of this film. Supporting cast member, Kelly Lynch as the lone female/mother wasn't impressive either. The dialogue is pretty bad, all-round. The film has a very strange opening that again is played out like an episode of a kid's cartoon, with Denzel donning a horrible looking, futuristic cop outfit of blue leather (!). Thus far for me, he was my favourite thing about the whole picture and he injected some much-needed energy and sanity that this film needed. & still, it wasn't enough. The CGI special effects, whilst they were good back in the day of 1995, they still hold up today. 

The story-line and the rest of the film exists for no other reason, but to show off the special effects. 

It also unravels in a similar way to that of Terminator 2 where the T-1000 goes after the Terminator, Sarah and John Connor. Virtuosity is a C-grade version of Terminator 2 with a more annoying antagonist and blander chase sequences. What should have been a serious action-packed and suspenseful action thriller descends into a laughable - though not on purpose-, gimmicky and jokey offering. It appears the director succeeded unfortunately in making Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington looking silly and ridiculous; heck, he ought to have cast lesser known actors in their place instead. 

Ricochet is a much better film, all-round than this offering as an action thriller - although given he has given impressive performances in the likes of Glory, Philadelphia, Malcolm X, The Pelican Brief, sometimes, it is a little baffling to see Denzel in a motion picture where his role is limited diminishing beneath under Virtuosity's effects. 

Everything about Virtuosity, despite the leads, just smacks of low-grade C-grade, low budget sci-fi fare that is easily throwaway and disposable.

Final Verdict:

Denzel Washington was better in Ricochet than this poorly constructed sci-fi, action film; actually, both Russell Crowe & Denzel have starred in better movies than Virtuosity. This could've been a decent offering at least, but the director wasted no time turning it into a film, that could be easily mistaken as a terribly bad live-action Saturday morning cartoon, come to life.

I didn't find Virtuosity enjoyable and as enjoyable as I did in my 20's and in revisiting this movie, I could understand where the faults in this film lie. 

Just as much as The Net rested on the laurels of Sandra Bullock, the same is true of that of Virtuosity for Denzel Washington - yet these comparisons come to an end as despite his efforts, it is still not a good movie. With somewhat dodgy CGI effects, non-existent plot, this film's execution comes off as being too corny and laughable to be ever taken seriously. And for a sci-fi action thriller, that is a no-no, as far I'm concerned. 

Virtuosity is a derivative, run-of-the-mill action thriller, where for all of the action sequences and Denzel's admirable efforts, the rest of the entire film is utterly unmemorable and easily unadorned. Thus, making it not worth any one's time, - and that is really unfortunate. 


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