Blu-ray Review ‘Hackers’: The mouse that roared

Hackers-CastMy most vivid memory of 1995’s Hackers (just out from Shout! Factory) wasn’t watching the early computer-geek flick, but interviewing stars Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller when they visited Houston to promote its release.

How young were these then-relative unknowns! And how in love! (They married in ’96, then divorced in ’99.) And how high on life — or something.

This was a one-on-two. We did the interview jointly at Houston’s Ritz Hotel (now the St. Regis), and the two stars were about as happy and agreeable as any actors I’d ever met.

Yes, their romance fizzled — as did the film, which grossed a paltry $7 million for a budget of $20 million. But I’ll be damned if Hackers didn’t turn out to be surprisingly prescient and on-target about the computer-driven world in which we now live. And its teen characters played by 20-something actors at least rollerbladed, went to school, partied and got entangled in adventures, meaning they did more than zone out all day in front of a computer monitor or an iPhone. (Today’s cell phone zombiefication would have ruined Hackers.)

The film also gets some respectfully elaborate extras for its Blu-ray debut, notably three series of interviews with the likes of director Iain Softley and actors Matthew Lillard and Fisher Stevens (but not Angelina or Jonny — I feel so special).

These include the 25-minute Our World Now, in which Softley makes some apt observations, such as likening Hacker-speak to the slang language of A Clockwork Orange and noting how his previous Backbeat (about the pre-stardom Beatles) shared Hackers‘ bent for being on the cusp of great social change — only Backbeat looked back, while Hackers forecast and looked ahead.

He also likens his film’s heroes to Edward Snowden as “adventurers.” Insert your own take on that here.

Granted, the film could get static when our heroes sat at keyboards dealing with an international conspiracy led by Stevens (who looks remarkably like Michael Douglas in the picture). But the actors sold it with their fiercely focused and animated faces, and Softley punched it up with as much graphic flair as the time period allowed.

Lillard remarks that Jolie and Miller were the “earnest” leaders of the cast, while he was “just chewing scenery left and right.” But overall the cast did a really nice job selling this — even including a young and short-shorn Marc Anthony as a Secret Service man.

On a personal note beyond the interview I did back then,  I greatly appreciated Miller’s character hacking into a TV network to force an airing of a classic ’60s episode of The Outer Limits, my favorite sci-fi show of all time (and conveniently owned by Metro, which released Hackers). The episode? I could tell from what little was heard and seen that it was The Architects of Fear, one of the truly great ones.

It’s nice to be able to enjoy a film when the lead character has such good taste.

— Bruce Westbrook

 

 

 

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