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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: khackers.txt

Review of "Hackers" by Harvey Karten

 By Harvey S. Karten, Ph.D.
 United Artists
 Director: Iain Softley  
 Writer:  Rafael Moreau
 Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie

  In the beginning there was "War Games," during the stone
age of computer hackers, where Matthew Broderick changes
Ally Sheedy's grades and is rewarded with the starring role in
"How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying."  And
"War Games" eventually begat "The Net" just after Sandra
Bullock was found hiding behind Peter Gallagher, Sylvester
Stallone and Keanu Reeves and made a star in her own right,
playing a computer nerd who never had her teeth cleaned
(she knew no one who could identify her except her shrink). 
And "The Net" begat "Hackers," which teaches us that
students from Manhattan's prestigious Stuyvesant High
School can get their diplomas doing more interesting things at
night than English homework.  (The school is called Stanton
High in the movie, but you couldn't fool the audience at a
recent screening, 90% of whom were students in the state-of-
the-art academy in New York's financial district, who yelled
their approval each time Andrzej Sekula's camera whirred
past the locker room, the bathroom, and the pristine halls.)

The story is perhaps the least important aspect of "Hackers,"
treading past familiar material--good guy meets villain (they
understand each other since they're merely opposite sides of
the same computer coin); boy meets girl (they dislike each
other at first, but then...); high school geeks freak out midtown
Manhattanites at high profile places like Grand Central
Station, Central Park, the World Trade Center and the top of
the Empire State Building; and of course the pyramid of
cracked-up cars.  "Hackers" is all about special effects, really,
about how the upcoming generation of computer whizzes see
the world simultaneously as normal people do and as
computer nerds might--with a third eye, a sort of X-ray vision
that Superman would envy.  The FX team has conjured up a 
world of virtual reality where buildings are made of glass and
electrons traffic their byways faster than you could say "World
Wide Web."  It's befitting that the story line, such as it is,
keeps pace with the rolling circuitry, zooming image after
image past us so fast that we haven't a second to say, "Hey,
that doesn't make sense."  "Hackers" will cut some ice with
high school youngsters and with quite a few in the middle
grades: this is the audience it's aiming at.  Adults, with or
without computer skills, will find the hyperactive kids ultimately
irritating and the bad guy too much fun to take seriously. 

Jonny Lee Miller stars as a kid who has just transferred
reluctantly from Seattle to his new school in Manhattan.  He's
a bit long in the tooth to be a preppy and looks as if he's just
come off Lufthansa from Hamburg.   He's a dazzler in looks,
sure to appeal to the Seventeen set, and would you know that
he and Angelina Jolie (who looks androgynous but darn good
here) will shed their mutual dislike for better things once they
win the war against a cyberspace embezzler known as The
Plague (Fisher Stevens).  Writer Rafael Moreu got his ideas
from chillin' with the kids.  His vision of a society in which one
could bring down the stock market, turn all traffic lights green,
set off a sprinkler system inside a school, have an ATM spit
$700 on a sidewalk in an Idaho town, trash a credit card, fill
out a rap sheet for hundreds of moving violations, turn a
respectable mom into a wanted criminal, and expose a plot to
embezzle millions from a corporate headquarters to a private
Swiss account--all with a pocket-sized $2,000 machine--is
given stylish life by director Iain Softley.  Whether you're
comfortable in cyberspace or a downright computerphobe,
feel free to leave this flick strictly for the kids.  Rated PG-13. 
Running Time: 103 minutes.  (C) 1995 Harvey Karten

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