Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 2/11/00
1995 (1998) - MGM
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
105 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical
trailer, 8-page booklet, film-themed menu screens, scene access (32
chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 2.0), subtitles:
English, French, Spanish, Closed Captioned
"We have just
gotten a wake-up call from the Nintendo Generation."
At the height of the hacker scare of the mid-90's, it was
inevitable that Hollywood would make a movie out of the subculture.
Hence the creatively named Hackers.
A film built around the bit and the baud, it certainly fits well
The plotline goes something like this: an eleven-year-old boy hacks
into 1,507 computers, including some on Wall Street. The little boy
causes (whoo!) a seven point drop in the New York Stock Exchange
(I'm sorry... that was too funny not to include). A judge bans the
little boy from using computers until his 18th birthday. Seven years
later, the boy moves to New York and begins hacking again. One of
his new found hacker friends breaks into major corporate
super-computer, downloading part of a malicious computer code
written by a major corporate computer security honcho (aptly named,
"The Plague"). Our friend, "The Plague," frames
the hackers for the virus to cover up his own less-than-savory
activities. The hacker gang now has to clear their name and save the
world -- or something like that. Simple enough for you?
I have to admit that I find a personal guilty pleasure in this
film. Shakespeare this ain't, but it does have its lovable charms.
The computers are not at all realistic (as interfaces just don't
look that way) and the hacking is silly at best. But the film
doesn't suffer too much from these shortcomings. The fashion in the
film is actually ahead of its time by a few years, and the visual
look is sleek while still human. A major part of that is due to the
lack of computer animation. That's right. Believe it or not, no
computer-generated graphics were used for the special effects.
Director Ian Softley explains. "We used the more conventional
methods of motion-control, animation, models and rotoscoping to
create a real, three-dimensional world, because, in my opinion,
computer graphics alone can sometimes lend a more flat, sterile
The story, although sounding a bit convoluted, is not too hard to
follow within the context of the film. The characters all flesh out
rather nicely, although some could have used a bit more attention.
The focus remains squarely on the leads played by Jonny Lee Miller
and Angelina Jolie, and in all honesty, they need the time.
Honorable mentions go out to Matthew Lillard (of
Scream fame) and Renoly
Santiago (who saw action in Dangerous
Minds and Con Air).
The video on this DVD is good, but not the best. The anamorphic
transfer is a plus, but there's some evident film grain (a problem
with this particular print) and light digital artifacting. The
sound, on the other hand, is of superb quality. This film boasts
three different soundtracks, and the music is a major element.
Techno sound, both ambient and more upbeat, keep tempo as the movie
progresses. The 5.1 mix is very all-encompassing, bringing the music
home in just the right contrast to the soundscape of New York. Small
chunks of the film could easily be pulled out and turned into
miniature music videos.
The extras on this disc, on the other hand, are sparse. An
eight-page booklet is an interesting read, even if it does get a few
hacker facts wrong. It would have been nice however, to see this
booklet turned into a small featurette. Using the same visual style
of the film, this would have been a fun little morsel for the disc.
A theatrical trailer rounds out the mix, and we get nothing on the
actors or crew. There is a secret little Easter egg, but it's hardly
worth finding. For a mid-1998 DVD release, however, this was a
decent offering. Considering the film NEVER got a major VHS release,
I guess we can only ask for so much.
In the end, this film holds up as a fun piece of eye candy,
depicting the way computer enthusiasts might envision the world of
cyberspace. Hackers is a
damned fun film, especially for the techno breed, and is well worth
a look. Remember, "there is no right and wrong. There's only
fun and boring."