“This is bullshit, bro,” says Rich staring sullenly at the screen. “What is?” asks Blaze. They’ve been playing the new “tech” in the computer lab for ages and have lost several thousand dollars. Dollars they don’t have. Gulp. “Well check this out,” says Rich and he goes all Beautiful Mind and Good Will Hunting on a chalkboard nearby. “Woah, you got a big ol’ brain! So what you’re saying is that the fact that the other player got three straight royal flushes is not likely.” But Rich shakes his head, “not just unlikely… statistically impossible.” And Blaze and Bryce look at each other “Woah.” But now they need to figure out what to do about it. Should they report them to the gaming commission… Rich shakes his head, it would blow his cover. They need to lure the creator of the tech out so they can get access and steal it for Gruber. What would lure a maniac like that out from hiding? Suddenly Rich has an idea, “the man is clearly an egomaniac and driven only by greed,” Blaze and Bryce nod their heads, “and what can’t an egomaniac handle? Calling his prized new tech garbage.” He quickly uses his 1337 skills to hack the mainframe and rewire the auxiliary dilator into the predictor array. Searching through files, he finds a blinking folder named “Garbage.” “There it is,” Rich says as he drags and drops the entire file into the garbage folder. With that his screen turns into a screen of mathematical equations flying in all directions. “Woah,” they all say in unison, but are interrupted by a cackling laughter behind them… That’s right! This week we’re doing what obviously must be done for the Sci-fi entry in the cycle. The inspiration itself: Hackers. While absurd that it qualifies, I also recognize that it is objectively a bad movie and is worth revisiting in BMT. Let’s go!
Hackers (1995) – BMeTric: 26.4
(6.2 is pretty solid, I can respect that. I have a feeling this will continue dropping. Honestly it might nit even qualify if they start backfilling reviews from blogs in the future, I’m sure 80s / 90s children who grew up with Hackers will like it a lot more than the adults at the time.)
Leonard Maltin – 2.5 stars – A group of young computer fanatics is framed for crimes committed by computer whiz and would-be master criminal Stevens, and have to use their own hacking skills to prove themselves innocent. No great shakes, but fast pace and vivid direction make it fun.
(THANK YOU. Yes, this movie is a lot better than the reviews suggest. And not even in a “good for what it is kind of way”, it is genuinely fun to watch and is competent at worst. “No great shakes” is throwing me off as I don’t know what that means. Also it is spelled “skillz”, so that’s a rare typo for Leonard.)
(Straight into my veins. I love it. I’ve never noticed this before, but in the movie the Da Vinci Virus naturally has a fake italian accent. In the trailer it is very very clearly just Fisher Stevens’ voice … while would have made the whole gambit more obvious to the FBI.)
Directors – Iain Softley – (Known For: K-PAX; Backbeat; The Wings of the Dove; Future BMT: Inkheart; The Skeleton Key; Trap for Cinderella; BMT: Hackers; Notes: The Wings of the Dove was nominated for four Oscars. He was a music video director prior to turning to film.)
Writers – Rafael Moreu (written by) – (Future BMT: The Rage: Carrie 2; BMT: Hackers; Notes: He was mostly an uncredited producer for Hallmark Entertainment prior to making Hackers. He appears to be mostly teaching since.)
Actors – Jonny Lee Miller – (Known For: T2 Trainspotting; Trainspotting; Byzantium; Mansfield Park; Afterglow; Melinda and Melinda; Endgame; The Flying Scotsman; Future BMT: Dracula 2001; Dark Shadows; Mindhunters; Plunkett & Macleane; Love, Honour and Obey; BMT: Æon Flux; Hackers; Notes: More recently has become a pretty accomplished television actor, specifically Elementary which ran for over 150 episodes. Was married to Angelina Jolie for 4 years.)
Angelina Jolie – (Known For: Girl, Interrupted; Wanted; Maleficent; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Kung Fu Panda; Salt; Changeling; Beowulf; Kung Fu Panda 3; The Good Shepherd; Kung Fu Panda 2; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; Pushing Tin; A Mighty Heart; Playing by Heart; Hell’s Kitchen; Future BMT: Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life; Alexander; By the Sea; Life or Something Like It; The Tourist; Shark Tale; Playing God; Original Sin; Taking Lives; Foxfire; Beyond Borders; The Bone Collector; BMT: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider; Hackers; Gone in Sixty Seconds; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress in 2002 for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Original Sin; in 2003 for Life or Something Like It; in 2004 for Beyond Borders, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life; and in 2005 for Alexander, and Taking Lives; Notes: A huge star both for her major film roles, and for her somewhat wild marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, and subsequent relationship with Brad Pitt which ended somewhat messily a few years ago.)
Jesse Bradford – (Known For: Romeo + Juliet; Bring It On; Presumed Innocent; W.; Flags of Our Fathers; The Year of Spectacular Men; Falling in Love; King of the Hill; Happy Endings; My Blue Heaven; Cherry Falls; Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog; Prancer; Heights; Bound; A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries; Future BMT: Clockstoppers; 10 Rules for Sleeping Around; Dead Awake; Dancing at the Blue Iguana; Speedway Junky; Eulogy; BMT: Swimfan; I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; Hackers; Notes: Jesse B from Swimfan is third billed? Bomb. He is also doing a bit of television recently, specifically as a guest star on Shooter.)
Budget/Gross – $20 million / Domestic: $7,563,728
(Oh no, that is a depressingly low number. No wonder we didn’t get Hacker 2: Hack the Universe, the story of how Zero Cool / Crash Override and Acid Burn, now working for the NSA, thwart an alien invasion via their 1337 hacking skillz.)
#15 for the Virtual Reality genre
(Goes in little cycles, and this indeed came out during one of the major peaks for this rather small genre. We’ve only seen Vanilla Sky and Johnny Mnemonic otherwise. Ready Player One was the most recent example.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 33% (15/45): Hackers has a certain stylish appeal, but its slick visuals and appealing young cast can’t compensate for a clichéd and disappointingly uninspired story.
(At the time people seemed to not like that it bought into the rebel Hacker trope that was booming at the time, and that it was a visual bombardment / mess. Reviewer Highlight: The movie is well directed, written and acted, and while it is no doubt true that in real life no hacker could do what the characters in this movie do, it is no doubt equally true that what hackers can do would not make a very entertaining movie. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
Poster – Hack the Planet (A)
(I really love this poster. The general color scheme tells you a little story about the film. Obviously they are highlighted by the glow of a computer. A mysterious blue that goes hand in hand with the mysteriousness of the hacker culture at the time. I’m intrigued. It also, as a bonus, avoids having our big stars portrayed without a clear color scheme. Finally, to tie it up nicely we have a sweet font for the title to let us know they aren’t messing around.)
Tagline(s) – Boot up or shut up! (B-)
Their crime is curiosity (C-)
(Neither of these are great. Boot up or shut up is a valiant try, but comes off a bit cheesy nowaways. Do you still boot things up? Did I boot up my phone today? The second one is just bland. It’s almost like the poster sets them up as being super rad and cool and then the tagline is like “don’t worry, they aren’t cool supercriminals, they’re just curious little cats.”)
Keyword(s) – computer virus; Top Ten by BMeTric: 74.5 Rings (2017); 65.5 Pulse (I) (2006); 57.0 Geostorm (2017); 55.7 Stormbreaker (2006); 51.8 Blackhat (2015); 49.5 The Lawnmower Man (1992); 47.7 Employee of the Month (2006); 43.2 Hitman: Agent 47 (2015); 38.4 Ghost in the Machine (1993); 35.5 The Net (1995);
(Oh we have to watch the Net at some point. It is like this movie except really really boring … in my opinion.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 18) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Matthew Lillard is No. 4 billed in Hackers and No. 9 billed in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 4 + 9 + 4 + 1 = 18. If we were to watch Mindhunters we can get the HoE Number down to 9.
Notes – Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie were married shortly after the making of the film, and then were divorced four years later.
All of the hacker handles proposed by the Joey were actual handles already used by real hackers. (This film is very accurate, no matter how it seems to look on screen)
The film’s writer, director, and some cast members attended the New York City 2600 meeting, a monthly hangout of the local hacker community, to observe and talk with real-life hackers.
The “Hacker Manifesto” read by Agent Bob was actually written by a hacker of great renown in the 1980s named Loyd Blankenship, who went by the name of The Mentor. It was published in PHRACK magazine, issue 07, file 03 in 1986.
The high school scenes were filmed at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, one of a few elite, exclusive high schools for students gifted in math, science and computers. Real school seniors were extras in many scenes.
The “pool on the roof” prank is actually based on an old Stuyvesant H.S. prank of the “Sixth Floor Pool”. The original Stuy building on East 15th Street in Manhattan had only five floors, and freshman were sent to look for a pool upstairs. The building had no pool. There was a literary publication at Stuyvesant referencing the prank called “Sixth Floor Pool”. The school moved into the new building (featured in the movie) shortly before filming began. (It is a fun prank, because like … you would never actually build a pool on the roof right? People do, but it is much cheaper from a design perspective I imagine to not have tons (literally) of water on top of a building).
The character name “Emmanuel Goldstein” is taken from George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. It is also used as a pseudonym by Emmanuel Goldstein (aka Eric Corley), who publishes the magazine “2600, The Hacker Quarterly”. Corley was an uncredited consultant for this film.
The “hacking”-sequences – the scenes where you see the “inside” of a computer – are mostly motion-controlled models, because director Iain Softley thought that actual computer graphics would look too artificial. (It was a good choice and something more movies should have done for much of the 90s)
Eugene Belford uses the pseudonym Babbage at the end of the film. Charles Babbage was the inventor of an early form of the computer.
William Gibson “invented” the term “Cyberspace” in 1982 for his book, Neuromancer.
The computer they break into is a fictional mainframe computer called a “Gibson” – a homage to cyberpunk author William Gibson.
“ARF! ARF! GOTCHA”, which appears near the end, when the Gibson is about to crash, is a reference to one of the earliest Trojan horse programs, EGABTR from 1985. Disguised as a graphics utility, EGABTR spread by email, wiped out everything on a victim’s hard disk, and left only the message, “Arf, arf, Gotcha!” on the screen. “ARF” may also serve double duty as a reference to the German hacker group “Asoziale Randgruppe Frankfurt”.
All of the books identified by Dade at the club were real manuals. All but two, the Pink Shirt Book and the Unix Bible, were published by the DoD and were part of a set of books known as the Rainbow Series.
Scenes in the movie, and in Razor and Blades show, depict using a cassette recorder to play tones into a phone to make free calls. Coins dropped into pay phones used to trigger specific sounds that actually could be duplicated and used to fool pay phones into thinking you had paid for a call. This was also accomplished using a device called a tone generator. Also known as a Red Box.
Cyberdelia was built from scratch in an abandoned indoor swimming pool on the outskirts of London, with the center of the club in the depths of what was the pool. Producer Ralph Winter notes, “We never knew why, but the pool was designated an historic landmark, so great care had to be taken not to damage anything and to return it to its original state.” (Uh …. Where is this?)
The bearded London hacker is Dave Stewart of Eurythmics.
“The Plague” writes a program that embezzles small amounts of money from the company at a time, thus amassing millions of dollars in a secret bank account. He tries to distract from his crime by framing the hackers with a computer virus set to capsize an oil tanker. The embezzlement-by-increments plot is called “salami slicing.” Richard Pryor’s character in Superman III (1983) does the same thing. (Yuppppp)
The part of Kate “Acid Burn” Libby was originally offered to Katherine Heigl, but due to prior commitments to Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) she had to turn it down. (Near miss there)
The hackers take over the Gibson computer with a Cookie Monster virus that starts gobbling up all the data. This is based on a real program from the era. Cookie Monster would come up on the screen and demand a cookie. You would type “cookie” and it would go away for a while. If you typed “Oreo,” it went away for a longer period of time. (Ha!)