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A wakeup call for the Nintendo generation? Hit the snooze button instead.
on 4 July 2012
Hackers is directed by Iain Softley and written by Rafael Moreu. It stars Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, Renoly Santiago, Fisher Stevens and Lorraine Bracco. Music is scored by Simon Boswell and Guy Pratt and cinematography by Andrzej Sekula.
Young Dade Murphy (Miller) gets banned from touching a computer again until his 18th birthday because of a infamous hacking stunt. Moving to New York with his mum, Dade meets like-minded techno heads at his new school. When one of them hacks into a scam masterminded by The Plague (Stevens), the gang find themselves framed and have to not only clear their names, but also avert computer catastrophe.
I desperately don't want to be one of this middle aged squares who frowns at teenagers, I consistently worry about the widening generational gap. Yet Hackers is irritating beyond compare, a film that, were I a teenage techno geek, would probably be on my "epic" favourites list. The 90s saw a rush of cyberspace/computer based thrillers, think The Net, Antitrust, The Lawnmower Man et al, none of which had the savvy nous or intelligence of War Games a decade earlier or Sneakers from 92. The main problem with Hackers is that it forgoes plot in favour of bombarding the viewer with techno babble and flashy visuals, it thinks it's being immeasurably cool by having this bunch of genius hacker kids (who conveniently all go to the same school) take on the establishment, but it's desperately shallow and comes off as an excuse to showcase some pretty young things in a world that the writers know nothing about.
Computer based crime is very real, now more than ever, and it's frightening, but this never comes to the fore here, the peril is preposterous and pushed to the sidelines. In fact the only thing scary here is Matthew Lillard's pig-tail plats! Softley, who made the rather great Backbeat, is more content with MTV style coolness than making his film stand on its own thematic two feet. It's all very colourful, but even the gorgeous colour only serves to make this teen hacker world seem like a space age cartoon, the fashions more at home in an episode of The Jetsons. If it was Softley and the writer's intention to create an alien teen world, one that the adults are bemused by, then that would be impressive, but I really don't think it's that at all, especially since it rings so false. The young actors are enthusiastic, but that's about it, leaving Fisher's villain to hog the limelight, while Bracco is woeful.
I can "dig" fanciful entertainment and spandex, but I'd also like a bit of substance with my eye orgasms too, Mr Softley. Thanks but no thanks, dude. 4/10