The 1990s were a wonderfully strange time for movies. The decade produced iconic films like, The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs, Forrest Gump and Braveheart. Great, great movies. However, it’s the same decade that was responsible for nipples on the Bat-suit, Shaq as a genie, and source material straight from the arcade. I couldn’t think of a better movie to exemplify all of the spectacular ambition of the decade than Virtuosity.
Set in the not too distant future, virtual reality and synthetic replication are at the cutting edge of technology in this police action/drama. The plot centers around a disgraced and imprisoned former police officer who serves his sentence running through virtual reality simulations to test police tactics. That lead role of Parker Barnes is played by a young Denzel Washington. After a murderous criminal kidnaps Barnes’s family and forces him into a rescue attempt that results in their death, Barnes goes on a wild killing spree in which an innocent news crew is gunned down. Oh and by the way, I almost forgot to mention, he has a mechanical arm.
A scientific organization of some kind works cooperatively with the police department to better prepare their officers for crisis situations by subjegating Barnes to repeated simulations. Even behind bars, he’s still the best cop on the force. Meanwhile, the group running the VR program has catalogued the psyche of history’s most despicable killers and maniacs and rolled them all into one, for some odd reason. The result is an amalgam of the smartest, most diabolical, most capable killers ever, Sid 6.7. And oh yea, the guy that killed Barnes’s family, he’s in there too. Thankfully for humanity, Sid is trapped in VR. That is until he convinces his creator to let him loose on the world and build him a synthetic body, one which also regenerates by consuming glass. Russell Crowe delivered a good and very fun portrayal in his first memorable role as the psychotic and masterfully charismatic killing machine. Once freed, he begins to wreak havoc on everything in his path.
At its core, Virtuosity is a sci-fi police drama centered around the hero and his arch nemesis on a path towards the final showdown. Imagine Ricochet meets Lawnmower Man. Watching it now, it’s easy to say the special effects aren’t fantastic but at the time they were some of the best available. Virtual reality was still mostly a gimmick in the mid 90s and synthetic replication was a thing of fantasy. Now we get to witness the Oculus RIft VR system pushing the practical applications of the technology. Synthetic replication is still not fully realized but tissue can now be grown in labs and 3D printing systems allow for quick and easy fabrication. So, if you’re in for a wildly ambitious adventure with some familiar faces, give Virtuosity a chance.
Make sure to keep checking back as the final three movies are revealed.