Wednesday, December 26, 2018

HACKERS (1995) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

HACKERS (1995) 
Label: 88 FilmsRegion Code: B
Rating: Cert. 12
Duration: 105 Minutes
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Iain Softley
Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Fisher Stevens, Lorraine Bracco

Synopsis: They can break any code and get inside any system. They are often still in their teens and already under surveillance by authorities. They are the hackers. Zero Cool - real name Dade Murphy - is a legend among his peers. In 1988 he single-handedly crashed 1,507 computers on Wall Street and was forbidden by law to touch another keyboard until his 18th birthday. It’s been seven years without a byte... and he’s hungry. Kate Libby, handle Acid Burns, has a souped up lap-top that can do 0 to 60 on the infobahn in a nanosecond. When the two collide, the battle of the sexes goes into hard drive. But all bets are off when master hacker The Plague frames Dade, Kate and their friends in a diabolical industrial conspiracy. Now they are the only ones who can prevent a catastrophe... unlike any the world has ever seen.

Hackers (1995) opens in 1988 with an 11 year-old hacker kid Dade Murphy (Jonny Lee Miller, Trainspotting) who goes by the name of "Zero Cool" being sentenced to probation and banned from using a computer until his eighteenth birthday. His crime? Crashing over 1500 computer systems and sending the stock market plunging. Forward seven years later and on his eighteenth birthday we find him hacking into a local TV station, changing the programming to run a vintage episode of The Outer Limits, so obviously this kid is cool! However, he's kicked out of the TV stations system by another hacker, a competitor that goes by the handle of "Acid Burn", he himself now going by "Crash Override".

Dade and his now divorced mom have moved into a new area and he enrolls in a new high school where he meets up with fellow hackers, like minded guys with cool hacker handles like "The Phantom Phreak",(Renoly Santiago), "Cereal Killer" (Matthew Lillard, SLC Punk), "Lord Nikon" (Laurence Mason, The Crow) and Joey Pardella, whose apparently not cool enough to have a hacker handle (Jesse Bradford, Cherry Falls), plus girl-hacker (Angelina Jolie, Girl Interrupted) who it turns out to be "Acid Burn". Jolie's character and Dade start pranking each other, with her stranding him on the roof of the school looking for a pool during a downpour, and then he sets off the sprinkler system in revenge, but of course there's some sexual chemistry brewing between the pair, heck they even got married after they filmed the movie, and I do think you can sense that chemistry in the film, the pair are the standouts of the bunch.

In an effort to prove his bones, or in the hacker terminology of the film, to become "elite" newbie Joey hacks into the super computer called at a mineral company, some legendary system known as the "gibson", downloading a partial file labeled "garbage", but it turns out it's anything but trash. This security breach alarms the computer security officer Eugene "The Plague" Belford (Fisher Stevens, The Burning) who uses all his resources to frame the group of hackers for a malicious virus he created to cover-up his own crime, creating a worm that will embezzle millions of dollars from the company by siphoning off fractions of a cent from each transaction, which sounds an awful lot like the premise of Office Space (1999).

The film is certainly dated with tech stuff that was once seemingly so far ahead of itself, in '95 not everyone was computer savvy, and I already had an aversion to techno-thrillers, so I skipped out on the film back in the day. It was kind of fun to watch it now twenty plus years later though. I have never been a huge Angelina Jolie fan but I do know that this was a big film for her career, even if it tanked at the box office. She's got some nice presence here, as does co-star Jonny Lee Miller. Maybe it's my age these days, but I think all the kids in this film are annoying as shit! None more so than Matthew Lillard, this guy was one of the more annoying actors of that 90's era, and his performance here has not aged well, the braided hair, the punk rock aesthetic, it's sort of SLC Punk-ish. Then we have Fisher Stevens as a bad-ass hacker who is the big baddie, he does alright I guess, but he's definitely no big bad, the scene of him on a skateboard during the hand-off of a computer disc had me in stitches.

Be on the lookout for appearances from Penn Jillette as a game-crazed IT guy and Lorraine Brocco (Goodfellas) as The Plague's corporate accomplice. In my opinion the film is a very middle of the road 90's youth culture techno-thriller with very low stakes, I never felt any threat or high stakes here for the characters, but it's got some vintage 90's visual pop culture flavor that will probably appeal to a lot of people who were grunge-era teens at the time, but not for me.

Audio/Video: Hackers (1995) arrives on region B locked Blu-ray from 88 Films  in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. Grain is present, colors look vivid, blacks are good, but the master looks like an older one, it doesn't look like this is a new 2K scan or anything, there's some bits of print damage you can see from time to time, but it's a solid presentation overall. 

Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 with optional English subtitles, dialogue is crisp and clean, and the score from Simon Boswell (Dust Devil) sounds fine, but I find the techno bump and thump annoying, not by bag at all. Of note, this looks to essentially be the same release of the film we saw from Shout! Factory a few years back, but this release includes the original 5.1 theatrical mix, which was absent on the Shout! Factory release.

Extras include a brand new and exclusive audio commentary by Director Iain Softley and Film Critic Mark Kermode, plus an over hour-long retrospective doc that should please fans of the film, there's also a trailer for the film. The Limited Edition first print run of this release from 88 Films includes a Gloss O-Card slipcase and a 150gsm fold-out poster.

Special Features: 

- Limited Edition Gloss O-Card slipcase [First Print Run Only]
- Limited Edition 150gsm Fold-out poster [First Print Run Only]
- Audio Commentary by Director Iain Softley and Film Critic Mark Kermode
- The Keyboard Cowboys: A Look Back At Hackers - Brand-New Interviews With Director Iain Softley, Cast Members Fisher Stevens, Matthew Lillard And Penn Jillette, Costume Designer Roger Burton, Visual Effects Artist Peter Chiang, And More! (64 min) 
- Original Trailer (2 min)

As 90's techno-thrillers aimed at the youth culture go this was entertaining stuff I guess, if vintage 90's computer effects, bad techno, rollerblading, and hacker hangouts sound like your idea of a fun time have at it, but I probably won't be watching it again anytime soon. That said, if you're a fan of it this is a good looking edition with cool extras and packaging.