Virtuosity

The poster for "Virtuosity."

The poster for “Virtuosity.”

I really want to find another movie like Demolition Man. The 90s Stallone sci-fi actioner was a piece of cheeseball absurdity (disgraced cop cryogenically frozen for hundreds of years, then thawed out in a pacifist future to battle an also-thawed master criminal) that was unashamedly entertaining. Virtuosity seemed like it fit the mold. Disgraced cop imprisoned for vigilante justice who’s brought out of his cell to battle the perfect serial killer in a virtual reality simulation when – SHOCKER – said perfect serial killer is released from the simulation into the real world. And of course, the disgraced cop is the only man who even “got close” to defeating the serial killer in the virtual world, so naturally he has to be released from prison as our “last best hope” of stopping the madness. It’s an amazing plot.

The film is also stacked with two acting heavyweights – Denzel Washington (a.k.a disgraced cop) and Russell Crowe (a.k.a. serial killer). It’s amazing how committed Denzel is to any role, especially one as absurd as this. Meanwhile, Crowe maniacally chews the scenery. In one scene he takes an entire nightclub hostage and gleefully composes a symphony of the hostages’ screams. That they devote more than a few minutes to this “set piece” speaks to the film’s over-the-top sensibilities.

I should probably explain a bit. I’m sure you’re wondering: how does a virtual perfect killing machine get out of what is essentially a videogame simulation? Isn’t the killer just a series of ones and zeroes? Good question! It all has to do with an easily persuaded genius scientist (the guy who created Crowe to be the perfect killing machine) getting the suggestion (from the perfect killing machine that he created) to make the killer a “real boy.” Most people would probably take a step back, maybe take a few days to think about it, before realizing that it’s the stupidest idea ever. Not this genius scientist though! Through a process of “nanite regeneration” any computer program can be turned into a real person through the work of nanotechnology. So Russell Crowe becomes a real person. Side effect of “nanite regeneration”: he has to eat glass to regain his health. There’s always a catch!

Virtuosity doesn’t reach the esteemed heights of “so-bad-it’s-good” territory. The problem is that it’s a rather competently made thriller that just has pacing issues, no real stakes, and plot points that are more eye-rolling rather than guffaw-inducing.  It’s worth a look just to realize that something with such talent like this exists, but other than that, it’s back to the bargain bin, where it belongs.

Grade: C-

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