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review added: 2/11/00



Hackers
1995 (1998) - MGM

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Hackers Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C+

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 with DVD.

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 image."

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."

Brad Pilcher
bradpilcher@thedigitalbits.com




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