Sometimes I dream of a world where everyone has the very niche interests that Patrick and I have such that a flood of content would exist in those microgenres. It’s like point-and-click adventure games (King’s Quest 37, anyone?), Wheel of Time (Seanchan spin-off series, anyone?), or 90’s erotic thrillers starring Jeff Fahey (sex on a motorcycle, anyone?). Like I want to see the alternate dimension where Sierra Studios is crushing out the SCU and Leisure Suit Larry is played by… well… Jeff Fahey, obviously. The point is that Virtuosity belongs in that world. After Lawnmower Man and Hackers stole our hearts (and Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace stole our brains), I could just gobble up VR films like candy. Delicious Virtuosity candy.
To summarize, Denzel Washington is a former cop serving hard time for killing the terrorist who murdered his family. One of his cop buddies has got him into a secret police training program that is trying to perfect virtual reality, but it’s not going perfectly. In fact, the prisoners are dying. The plug is pulled, but the psychotic serial killer simulation convinces the developer to get him out before he does. Inexplicably this total idiot listens to the bot. Seriously… this computer program had no power and the guy is like “OK, sure” and then after using nanobots to create a body for the dude he’s like “oh, wait, shit that was a bad idea” and runs away. It’s crazy. Anyway, he goes on a crazy crime spree so naturally the police get Denzel and psychologist Dr. Madison Carter on the case… as vigilantes, I guess. Soon they are tracking him across LA as he takes numerous people hostage. They realize that he is enthralled by the limelight and so they are able to track him to a wrestling event, but he somehow sets up Denzel to look like he kills an innocent hostage. He’s sent back to prison, but freed by the killer in an attempt to set off a fail-safe the police put in his body in case he tried to escape (you following this?). But the police don’t fall for it and Denzel and Madison are able to track down the killer who has taken Madison’s daughter hostage. There they take out the killer and use a simulation to trick him into revealing where he’s hidden the girl. Denzel saves the day then smooches Madison (probably, although maybe not right away since that would be in bad taste). THE END.
I kinda dug this movie. It’s a little convoluted with a lot of plot points and motivations flying around in 106 minutes, but I like the vibes. It’s a vibes movie. Crowe is ridiculous and it’s a little hard to see how he got from this to three consecutive Best Actor nominations. But maybe not. The best way to describe him in this film is “game” and another actor that I’ve always thought about that way is Tommy Lee Jones, who is great and definitely hasn’t shied away from being a little wild and crazy in a film. Everything else is fun and looks interesting. My main critiques would be the way they got the killer out of the computer was clever but a little clunky. The motivations didn’t make a lot of sense. And then the end was clever, but it didn’t seem like they could figure out how to successfully pull it off. Could it be?… Not that bad? As for River of Death, I love Dudikoff. Seems like a guy genuinely happy to go out and make these straight-to-video action films that I love. This one, though, is a bit meh. It’s almost too competently made to the point where it hits an uncanny valley between theatrical release and video schlock. Not enough funny dumb stuff… or even just having a little fun with it… you gotta have fun when you’re in the video realm. This didn’t feel like much fun.
Hot Take Clam Bake! I leave a little taste of a Dudikoff hot take I’m working on (and maybe will deploy in the future): Dudikoff should have played Batman. You’re welcome. As for Virtuosity, switch the roles, baby! Oh you’re thinking I mean switch Denzel and Crowe? Oh, no no no. Denzel is perfect in his role as cop-turned-convict-with-a-heart-of-gold. No I mean switch Crowe and Kelly Lynch (who played Dr. Madison Carter). Make the killer a smoking hot blonde. The point is that they can do anything with VR. Most serial killers are big ol’ gross people. Not when you got a computer wizard behind the console. This serial killer is a temptress. Did I just make Virtuosity an erotic thriller? You bet your ass I did. Crowe is now the bookish criminal psychologist who ends up a little too intrigued by the sexy killer. Classic psychologist-killer dynamics at play just before Denzel gets to bust in a blow up the show. I’m loving this. I just paid myself $20 million for this script. Hot Take Temperature: Caribbean Jerk. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Virtuosity? More like Viciosity … get it? Like virtuous versus vicious? Whatever, I didn’t like it anyways. Let’s go!
- I feel like my impression of this film was mostly that it had notoriously outdated special effects from that Lawnmower Man era of almost being able to do full CGI landscapes, but now it would just look ridiculous. Weirdly, that isn’t really the case. When they are in the virtual world it looks like the regular world. And when they do do full landscapes it looks fine and actually is kind of an interesting contrast between these old school graphics and, basically, the zoot suit Crowe wears prior to him coming to the real world.
- This film also feels like a film where it is a bit confusing as to how a sequel series hasn’t been considered. Consider this. The generation of artificial life is completely possible. From advanced neural nets which are, for all intents and purposes, perfectly human in behavior. To the nanobot bodies which were perfected during the course of the film. Already there is an interesting premise. What is humanity? What happens when this “lower” life form is inevitably subjugated by humanity? Basically, it could be Westworld, but in the real world. It could be I, Robot, but built from Virtuosity’s ruined shell of an IP. I think it at least would have been worth a shot, but apparently that IP is ice cold.
- Crowe is ridiculous in this film. Actually terrible, but I’m sure that was intentional.
- Washington on the other hand is naturally amazing. And I do dig the serial killer / fugitive thing they had going as far as the story. Decent futuristic noir I think.
- The movie relies on a strained coincidence that not only is the evil terrorist who killed Denzel’s family inside of Crowe, but that this person is also the dominate personality. If not for that it seems inevitable that Crowe would have killed Denzel in cold blood (he is a robot and pretty much invincible) and killed hundreds before being destroyed.
- Decent Setting as a Character (Where?) for future Los Angeles. And I’ll throw it a tiny Worst Twist (How?) for the finale whereby it looks like Denzel screwed up again and everyone is going to die, but et voilà, actually he did do it, they were just psyching us out for no reason. This film is closest to Good, it is undeniably entertaining and Denzel is good.
- Since we swapped things a bit and did a future film for the Achievement cycle, we had to go hunting for a non-qualifying film set in the past. Harder than one would think. Originally we were going to watch Titanic: The Legend Continues … a notoriously bad animated film. But I didn’t want to. Instead we settled into our never ending goal of watching every Dudikoff film ever made. This time it was the bizarrely serious River of Death. It opens with a Nazi doctor killing a bunch of people and then betraying Donald Pleasance to escape to the Amazon. Smash cut to the 60s (I think) where Dudikoff is helping a doctor try and cure a disease that only seems to afflict natives there. Spoiler, it actually isn’t true, in the end after defeating the doctor, Dudikoff still has to leave his lady love behind because she has contracted what is effectively super-leprosy which kills those without pure aryan blood. You see, the film is super duper serious. There are some fun things there, but it is naturally brought down by Nazis, disease, and probably-racist depictions of cannibal natives of the Amazon. D. Dudikoff is usually good for a watch, but in this case it just isn’t as fun as him being drunk and fighting terrorists in a submarine / robot office building / train, you know?
You can read all about the Netflix original series Virtuosity 2.0 in the Quiz. Cheerios,