HACKERS: 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Johnny Lee Miller as DADE
Angelina Jolie as KATE
Jesse Bradford as JOEY
Matthew Lillard as CEREAL
Laurence Mason as NIKON
Renoly Santiago as PHREAK
Fisher Stevens as THE PLAGUE
Lorraine Bracco as MARGO
Studio: Shout Factory
Directed by: Iain Softley
BY KEVIN CARR
I remember back in 1995 when “Hackers” first came out, it seemed so ridiculous. It wasn’t ridiculous that people could use computers to do some real dirty work. It also wasn’t ridiculous because teenagers were hyper-talented at working these machines, often leaving their older contemporaries in the dust.
It was ridiculous because of Hollywood’s version of what hackers looked like and how they behaved. After all, it was so typical of Hollywood to cram together as many elements of punk and counterculture into one heaping pile of cool. Here’s where “Hackers” was – and still is – a bit of a freak show.
Now, in 2015, “Hackers” is still ridiculous. Aside from the obvious overstylized versions of the hackers themselves, it now seems silly to use a phone line to connect to the internet, store oodles of data on a 3.5-inch floppy disc, or to brag to your friends that your modem runs at a blazing speed of 28.8. baud.
Still, no matter what decade you’re in, and no matter why the film is silly and ridiculous, it’s still a lot of fun.
The 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is now available from Shout Factory, and it’s a great way to revisit the film which has aged far better than I ever thought it would.
The story follows a group of high schoolers whose friend is targeted by a corporate security professional, who also happens to be a hacker. This hacker – known as The Plague (Fisher Stevens) – is using the high schoolers as cover to unleash his own virus that will raid bank funds and make him rich. It’s up to this rag-tag group of high school hackers, along with other hackers around the world, to unite and bring the corporate rat down.
>In essence, “Hackers” is a story of the underdog going up against the bigger fish. It’s also a bit of a teen love story as well as a rebel yell for geeks who see themselves as secretly cool. The cast is quite memorable, featuring future stars like Johnny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie and Matthew Lillard. One of the greatest strengths of the movie is it’s eye-popping color with excellent cinematography and its brisk pace. The movie can be really silly at times, but it moves fast enough that it shouldn’t bother you.
It really slathers on the wannabe coolness, often to ludicrous effect (e.g., Fisher Stevens rolling around on a skateboard and the overuse of the underground New York club kid scene). The acting’s not great, but it works for the kind of project it is.
While it gets a lot of hacking nuances right (including quoting the infamous Hacker Manifesto), it also goes over the top as only Hollywood could do. Cyberspace still looks like a video game, which is commonplace in the 1990s. but that’s all part of the fun.
It’s not deep or brilliant, but “Hackers” is certainly still as entertaining as it was in 1995… possibly more so.
While there’s only one special feature on the disc (aside from the original theatrical trailer, which I rarely count as a real piece of bonus material), it’s a sizeable one. To keep in the spirit of the 20th Anniversary Edition release, there is an hour-long documentary called “The Keyboard Cowboys: A Look Back at Hackers.”
This feature is broken into three segments – “Our World Now,” “The Beauty of the Baud” and “You Can’t Stop Us All” – and features interviews with cast members and crew as well as hacker consultants and other well-known hackers. This helps set the movie in a chronological context, especially explaining how this all worked in the infancy of the Internet and how things were so vastly different back in 1995.
Sure, these interviews and perspectives are often self-serving and look at the world with a filtered lens (e.g., one of the hackers claiming this was the first film to show hacking into corporate network or using data to change someone’s identity, when the film “The Net” featured those very things and was released two months before it). However, that’s to be expected for folks remembering exactly what happened twenty years ago. Overall, it gives a nice framework of what was going on in the world – both cinematically and technologically – back in the mid-90s.