Tuesday 24 August 2010

Obscurity Files #20 - Hackers

SLACKER Obscurity Files aims to put the spotlight onto a series of films that time and audiences have otherwise forgotten. With Salt hitting screens this week, let's check out an extremely youthful Angelina Jolie in Hackers.
More after the jump...

Back in 1988 a young computer hacker called Zero Cool sets a virus that shuts down half of Wall Street, seeing his family fined $45,000 and him banned from owning a computer or a touch tone telephone until he turns 18. Well now in present day 1995, he's just turned 18 and has moved with his mum to the big city, New York. When he hooks up with a bunch of like minded techno freaks, he meets the gorgeous Kate (Angelina Jolie), a sassy computer whizz with some issues.

I, like many people, watched Hackers as a kid. The internet was new, home computers where everywhere, and a film about young street kids hacking into big business just appealed to my primal sense of nihilism. But looking back on it now... it's a bit crap.

That's mostly due to the fact that you can't take this film seriously at all. You could make a drinking game out of the amount of bollocks that's spoken in this film. There's some incredibly cute lingo that dates it. Hah! They just said 'on line' instead of just 'online'! Hah! He just asked about the external modem! Why do they have to keep plugging in to the phone line? What the hell is that screensaver? To be fair, this was fifteen years ago and of course technology has leaped ahead since then. This was back when personalising your desktop required a can of spray paint.

The bad guy's played by Fisher Stevens (Trivia...His real name is Steven Fisher), who will be forever associated with the racially dubious casting of Short Circuit. His skateboarding, waistcoated villian known as The Plague has a diabolical plan to sink an oil tanker to cover up his stealing from the company. He's stolen all the little cents and dimes that are floating around the internet, a bit like Richard Pryor in Superman 3 but nowhere near as charmingly.

Angelina Jolie is youthfully beautiful, and has got that punky edge that she's unfortunately lost now. Her character is a bit of a bitchy ice queen towards Dade, but she starts to warm to him once they find a common cause; bring down the government officials that are after them and stop the Plague from getting all the money. In an attempt to make data entry seem more exciting, we're invited into a Tron type world with electric cityscapes and floating equations. The Plague is a powerful hacker with a super computer called 'The Gibson', but if they pool their resources they may just be able to bring down the system.

It's fun but absolute bollocks. What the hell kind of hacker name is Zero Cool? As well as Jolie's Acid Burn we have Matthew Lillard as Cereal Killer, Laurence Mason as Lord Nikon and Jesse Bradford as Joey. It doesn't help when Zero Cool starts going by Crash Override, not to mention that his real name is Dade Murphy. This is not a film to watch if you're looking for baby names.

A common problem when you're making a film based on technology is that it dates really quickly. Well this film was dated before it'd even got released. Witness this completely incoherent stream of technobabble.

The energy is kept up by a terribly encroaching rave soundtrack, with Prodigy, Orbital and Underworld all appearing, not to mention Stereo MC's and Elastica who get included purely because they both have songs with 'connect' in the title. Joining the cause is a pair of vain hackers called Razor and Blade. They offer handy hints to all the other soda drinking, rollerblading youths in an attempt to bring down the man. It's like Project Mayhem if Tyler Durden was paid for product placement.

Of course this is the film that first brought Angelina Jolie to the public eye, and also the film where she met her first husband Jonny Lee Miller. The whole 'getting married with his name scrawled on her back in her own blood' thing helped build the legend of Angelina Jolie, and this film got dragged along for the ride.

The whole film's deliciously lame now. There's definitely some enjoyment to be had from watching all the dated references to technology, but if you do decide to give it a re-watch, that's you sorted for the next five years. It's hard to say whether this film would have been forgotten if not for the Jolie factor. She is a big part of the film's appeal, and there's probably not too many fans of Matthew Lillard's Cereal Killer out there wanting a sequel.

Save from obscurity? YES

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