09 July 2007

Hacked-Up Hairball

Friday night we did a couple of errands, then went home to relax (yes, we are boring, thank you). In our cable TV lineup we have this group of movie channels that are not considered "premium" (like HBO or Showtime) but show movies unedited and with no commercials. Frequently there's nothing interesting on any of them, but sometimes we find movies worth watching. In this case, we stumbled on a movie so lame, so cheesy, so stunningly awful, we had no choice but to watch: Hackers.

This 1995 debacle might just be the most
awesomely bad movie I have ever seen. It's nominally about a group of high-school kids in New York City (who all happen to be whiz-kid hackers) who must fight an evil computer genius bent on unleashing some sort of virus. At least I think that's what it's about. The main character is supposed to be some sort of super-hacker who caused the catastrophic crash of thousands of computers worldwide, and he's supposed to have done this when he was like ten or eleven years old. Wow. As a result, he is banned from using a computer until his eighteenth birthday--such a cruel punishment!

Whoever wrote it had clearly read a bunch of William Gibson novels and was trying to emulate some of the cyberpunk aspects of his writing, but in a contemporary, non-scifi setting. I like Gibson's books, but you can't copy him; it just doesn't work. Whatever Hackers is, it's a mess. Much of it makes no sense, and as with most movie and TV portrayals, the "hacking" is completely unrealistic. Decent soundtrack though: Underworld, Stereo MC's, Massive Attack, to name a few. (According to IMDB, there were actually three soundtrack albums released for this movie.)

One of the great pleasures of watching cinematic fertilizer like this is spotting the otherwise-respectable actors who stopped by to pick up a quick paycheck and maybe, if we're lucky, chew some scenery. The girl-hacker crush object is played by none other than Angelina Jolie, in one of her earliest film roles, sporting a Peter Pan pixie haircut to make her look tough but still sexy and vulnerable. I give her a pass because she was young and probably didn't know any better.

Hey, there's Lorraine Bracco, in an obvious midcareer slump between Goodfellas and The Sopranos, and blonde no less (dye job or wig?), playing some sort of vixenish criminal mastermind. Huh? Wait, here comes Mr. Lopez himself, Marc Anthony, playing... a Secret Service agent? Yeah, credible. Other folks making brief (luckily for them) appearances include Penn Jillette as a bad-guy hacker minion, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics as a white-hat hacker helping the kids, and Felicity Huffman as a prosecutor.

Now, I have to be honest: we missed the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie, so there were a couple of things we didn't get that may have been explained in that early portion. But really, it just made us want to see it again, and it looks like we'll get the chance: as the credits were rolling, a message at the bottom of the screen told us what movie was coming on next, then said, "You've been watching Hackers. See it again on July 21st at 9 PM." Hmm, bad movie-watching party at our house?

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