For no particular reason, I revisited Virtuosity last night; I remembered seeing it when it came out and remembered liking it at the time. The film’s narrative, based on a novel premise that combines experiments in virtual reality with attempts at creating lifelike androids. Sounds interesting right? Unfortunately, Virtuosity has some good ideas that somehow got lost in the process of getting translated to the screen. The film has the 90’s look of a slick magazine firmly in place, and all of the requisite ingredients for an entertaining story are all in attendance, but somehow the film still manages to miss the mark. For a thriller, Virtuosity is sorely lacking in thrills.
After introducing the film’s main characters, the film keeps its focus on them and just sort of settles into a Western-style plot with Denzel trying to catch Crowe. Virtuosity forgets all about the cool science fiction stuff it used to establish its story. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems if one of your characters is pure evil and virtually unkillable you could think of some ways to keep it interesting. The story comes down to being a battle of wits between Denzel’s character and Sid, reduced to the old tale of Man vs. technology.
One reason this film fails is that it attempts to depict the digital world and virtual reality and the special effects of 1995 were just not up to the job yet. CGI was still in its formative years. The look of this film and other classic 90’s genre films like Lawnmower Man didn’t have the tools yet to tell the sorts of stories they wanted to tell
No one shines in this production; It’s hard to blame it on the cast, it’s not their fault, they all competently do their jobs. Denzel, as the criminal-ex-cop-chief-protagonist with a past, is at this peak; beautiful with just a touch of swagger, but his performance alone is not enough to carry this not very interesting narrative. The film even tries a cameo by porn icon Traci Lords as a way to make itself more interesting, Waste of time.
Surprisingly, its bad-boy Russel Crowe as the virtual construct Sid 6.7 who lets the film down. As a conglomeration of multiple anti-social, homicidal sociopaths, and serial killers, the real-life bad-boy isn’t bad-boy enough for this film. Sid’s an exciting premise/character that just never gets to show us just how dangerous he can be; his bad behavior gets limited to just a couple of anti-social misdemeanors and a few murders. Sid never lives up to the hype
There’s a lot of potential here for a terrific cyberpunk story and a reboot done well might be a good idea for this one.