You know, I've just gotta tell ya, I'm really getting sick of all these virtual reality/computer thriller movies. In the last few months we've been subjected to Keanu Reeves' version, "Johnny Mnemonic", Sandra Bullock's version, "The Net", and now, here we are with Denzel Washington's stab at action film heroism, "Virtuosity".
Now, don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a really good actor like Denzel Washington being in an action movie. Oftentimes the biggest problem with the endless parade of action flicks is that the lead actors range from bad to pretty awful (anyone who's seen a Jean Claude Van Damme movie knows what I'm talking about). Consequently, the villains of these movies are usually the most enjoyable characters.
Which brings us to "Virtuosity", a seriously flawed action movie that features two terrific actors doing their very best to keep the whole thing going. Denzel Washington stars as Parker Barnes, an ex-cop who's been imprisoned for a nice long stretch after killing the serial killer who wiped out his family. When a big virtual reality company has a problem with one of their programs, they get Parker out of the joint and pit him against the evil Sid 6.7, a nasty virtual reality villain who is re-writing his own program! Russell Crowe plays Sid, and is truly evil. When he finds a way to get out of the computer and run around in a cool, silicon regenerating android body, he takes it.
So, the chase begins. Along the way, we find out that Sid's program is an amalgamation of over 200 serial killers, with that one special killer that slaughtered Parker's family struggling to attain prominence. Parker, meanwhile, is fighting his own battles. He's trying to deal with the guilt of letting his family be killed while a criminal psychologist dogs his every move. Believe me, all of this sounds much more interesting than it really is. "Virtuosity" is a disappointingly low-grade thriller that suffers from the worst action film sickness: predictability.
Nothing unpredictable happens during this movie, which is not exactly a surprise given the anemic nature of today's action film fare. What is unfortunate is that the talents of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are completely wasted in the movie. Yes, Crowe does entertain as Sid 6.7, looking like a petulant child while he kills without discrimination. Washington is also very good as the bitter cop with a robot arm, but the fairly juvenile plotline, complete with "the hostage character", "the caring female character", and the "He was a good cop!" speech, just frustrates rather than thrills.
Copyright 1995 John A. Lavin
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page