A young boy is arrested by the US Secret Service for writing a computer virus and is banned from using a computer until his 18th birthday. Years later, he and his new-found friends discover a plot to unleash a dangerous computer virus, but they must use their computer skills to find the evidence while being pursued by the Secret Service and the evil computer genius behind the virus.
For more about Hackersand the Hackers Blu-ray release, see Hackers Blu-ray Reviewpublished by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 15, 2015 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0out of 5.
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: Rafael Moreu
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller,Angelina Jolie,Jesse Bradford,Matthew Lillard,Laurence Mason,Renoly Santiago
Producer: Michael Peyser
» See full cast & crew
Hackers Blu-ray Review
Remember when AOL stood for Almost Online?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 15, 2015
Elementary's at times whimsical modern updating of the venerable character of Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has the iconic detective often utilizing 21st century tricks of the trade that would have probably confounded Arthur Conan Doyle's original formulation of this unforgettable personality. Among those techniques is Holmes' appeals to an Anonymous-esque group of computer hackers called Everyone, a relationship which is fraught with certain humor, as the Everyone collective routinely insists that Holmes humiliate himself (often in public) before they hand over whatever information it is Holmes has asked for their help to glean. Fans of Hackers, a film that offered Jonny Lee Miller one of his first starring roles, might wonder if Everyone's hidden population might include one Dade Murphy, Miller's computer obsessed character, who is first shown as an 11 year old whose expertise at crashing the then nascent internet leads to a supposedly precipitous drop of a whopping seven points on the New York Stock Exchange, as well as the blue screen of death on thousands of other computers, all of which saddles his family with a huge court ordered fine and a stern warning from a no nonsense judge that Dade is forbidden from getting near a computer or even a touch tone phone (hey, it was the dial up era) until he turns 18. The film then segues forward seven years to find Dade and his mother (Alberta Watson) moving to New York City for her to pursue a new job offering and Dade to enjoy the supposed delights of attending high school in the Big Apple.
Finally armed with a new computer, Dade sequesters himself in his bedroom and quickly manages to hack into a local television station, where he is able to broadcast an episode of The Outer Limits. Within seconds, however, he's confronted by anotherhacker going by the handle Acid Burn who warns him away from previously claimed "territory." Meanwhile, Dade's Mom has figured out he's connected his computer to the phone line (the horror!) and flips out, obviously concerned that her little boy may be heading to prison if he continues down this path. That particular angst is soon replaced by the somewhat more mundane nervousness of having to matriculate to a new school, with Dade having to navigate a somewhat treacherous hazing ritual at the hands of schoolmate Kate Libby (Angelina Jolie).
One of Hackers' narrative elisions is how it suddenly posits Dade in a whole world of teenaged computer experts, with a gaggle of other kids (all armed with playful "handles") at his school evidently already well ensconced in the world of cyber intrusions. These include Emmanuel Goldstein (Matthew Lillard), who goes by the name Cereal Killer; Paul Cook (Laurence Mason), whose alias is Lord Nikon; and Ramon Sanchez (Renoly Santiago), also known as The Phantom Phreak. (There is a "real" Emmanuel Goldstein, albeit pseudonymously, named after a character in George Orwell's 1984. This Goldstein, actually named Eric Gordon Corley, published an early hacking manifesto called 2600and also served as a technical consultant on the film. He provides several interesting comments in interviews included as a supplement on this new Blu-ray.)
Meanwhile a hacker wannabe named Joey (Jesse Bradford), easy to identify as a wannabe due to his lack of an online moniker, manages to break into a system at a huge corporation where an IT guru named Hal (Penn Jillette) notices, alerting the firm's cybersecurity honcho Eugene Belford (Fisher Stevens), who of course has his ownalias, The Plague. Joey wants proof of his hacking acumen and begins to download a file called "Garbage," but his mom disconnects his computer before the download has completed. In the meantime, Eugene admits to his cohort Margo Wallace (Lorraine Bracco) that the so-called Garbage file is in fact a virus that Eugene has been planning to use to create a diversion which will allow him to skim untold millions off of the corporation's coffers without anyone noticing. The quick thinking Eugene actually blames Joey for the virus, setting an investigation into motion that ultimately involves harried FBI agent Richard Gill (Wendell Pierce).
Joey is taken into custody but has secreted a good old floppy disk with the partially downloaded Garbage file where no one can find it (much to the dismay of both Gill and Eugene). Of course Dade and his gang are soon involved. (Though it won't be "officially" spoiled here, most aficionados of Screenwriting 101 will be able to figure out who Dade's early nemesis Acid Burn turns out to be, and that character is also involved in the ensuing shenanigans.) Hackersultimately traffics in fairly standard "rage against the machine" (and/or The Man) tropes, but it does so in an inventive milieu, one which director Iain Softley invests with some really interesting visual flourishes. Several times, for example, otherwise routine settings like an aerial view of the Manhattan skyline morph into things like a computer circuit board.
While occasionally more than a bit on the cartoonish side, performances are generally quite winning. Miller displays some of the same snark he evinces as Sherlock in Elementary, and his scenes with Jolie have the requisite spark and banter. (Miller and Jolie married shortly after the film wrapped, separating and ultimately divorcing a couple of years later.) The supporting cast is large and eclectic (to say the least), with some nicely colorful turns. That said, Fisher Stevens simply doesn't emanate much menace as The Plague, seeming to be more like The Low Grade Virus (pun probably intended) instead.
Hackers Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hackersis presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.34:1. While elements are in generally very good condition, there may be just a slight amount of fade in evidence, as things like flesh tones can look just a little pallid or skewed toward the pink side of things at times. Otherwise, though, the palette is refreshingly vivid, offering some evocative purples and blues in scenes like an arcade where Dade bests Kate's all time high score on a game. Some of the recreations of computer imagery are relatively soft and unconvincing looking, but overall the image offers very good to excellent fine detail (you'll be able to see tiny elements like the fine hairs on Miller's ears in several close-ups). The film has a higher than average amount of opticals, and as should be expected, sharpness and clarity are minimized during these moments. Contrast is solid throughout, offering decent shadow detail in several dimly lit environments. Grain resolves naturally and the presentation has a commendably organic look.
Hackers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hackersfeatures a winning DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that offers excellent separation for the film's frequent use of source cues. Dialogue is well rendered and well prioritized. The film's sometimes silly sound effects are also presented cleanly and clearly. Fidelity is fine, though dynamic range somewhat restrained aside from a couple of scenes where, for example, the feds come barging through various doors to take hackers into custody.
Hackers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hackersis unavoidably a bit of a time capsule, and it will probably strike younger viewers as impossibly quaint. The film would have been more effective had it established the coterie of hackers in a bit more of a detailed fashion, rather than simply positing it all as a fait accompli. Miller and Jolie are a lot of fun in early roles (though Jolie has one of the more unfortunate hairstyles of her career), and the supporting cast is by and large quite effective as well. Director Softley invests the film with appealing visual panache while also keeping things well paced, something that helps the film to overcome some of its narrative stumbles. Technical merits are generally strong, and the supplemental featurette is excellent. Recommended.
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Hackers Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 18-25 - August 16, 2015
For the week of August 18th, Walt Disney Home Entertainment is bringing the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection to Blu-ray. Other titles this week include Tony Scott's vampire melodrama The Hunger, the goofy teen thriller Hackers, and Michael ...
• Hackers 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray - May 6, 2015
Shout Factory will release on Blu-ray Iain Softley's action thriller Hackers (1995), starring Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, and Laurence Mason. The release will be available for purchase on August 18.
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Hackers: 20th Anniversary Edition
As cheesy and silly as it may be — riddled with lots of absurdly comical dialogue and tons of techno jargon — 'Hackers' still manages to entertain twenty years later. At the time of its release, computers and the internet inside the home and in the hands of private citizens were still a relatively new concept. The World Wide Web was still a strange and foreign world to the masses, made more easily accessible to the public thanks to early web browser Mosaic only a couple years earlier. The world of cyberspace was little known to most moviegoers, and they probably knew even less of the hacker subculture. So, part of the fun in this 1995 sci-fi thriller was the fact that the subject matter was familiar to only a select few while also delivering enough action and excitement to attract a wider audience. In essence, the movie effectively turned its finger on the pulse of a revolutionary new trend into something cinematic.
Admittedly, being ahead of its time or keeping to the latest craze is not reason enough to praise any production, but the fact that it does so in an entertaining fashion is. Director Iain Softley ('K-PAX') worked closely with cinematographer Andrzej Sekula ('Pulp Fiction,' 'American Psycho') and stage designers for creating the world of computers and their interior workings. The end result, of course, is the furthest from reality — a bunch of silly gibberish and ridiculous mumbo-jumbo — but it nevertheless turned the unfamiliar world of cyberspace into visually enthralling displays of fantasy. Softley and his crew transformed the strange and unknown into a flamboyantly colorful universe that seemed enchanting and thrilling, a space where the uninvited and marginalized could feel like Indiana Jones exploring the undiscovered territory. The audience now knows and understands the attraction these talented teens have for hacking into other systems.
Softley and Sekula keep their viewers captivated with other cleverly amusing visuals, other than the wide array of primaries continuously decorating the screen as if to further entice viewers into the forbidden candy shop. The camera navigates overhead and through a circuit board with pulses of electricity beaming in all directions. These imaginative graphics — which again intentionally have nothing to do with how computers work in real life — smoothly dissolve into the busy, high-rise packed streets of New York City, suggesting that the digital age is already here living amongst us, working unseen behind the curtain of daily life. Almost all of society is controlled by computers, from traffic lights and oil tankers to banks and the personal records of private citizens. The movie turns that last part into a bit of comedy of relief when Secret Service Agent Richard Gill's (Wendell Pierce) — "Hacker enemy number one" — life is turned into chaos.
With great direction and excellent photography already on its side — however, corny and unrealistic as it is — the only thing remaining is a good story to match, and even in this respect, the film successfully infiltrates the expectations of moviegoers. It isn't a masterpiece by a long shot, but Rafael Moreu's script immediately catches our attention with the news of an eight-year-old genius who cashed 1,507 systems in a single day. Seven years later, the kid grows up to be Jonny Lee Miller, a high school senior year haunted by his past but still up to his old tricks, only much more low-key. It doesn't take long before he makes other hacker friends (Renoly Santiago, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason and Jesse Bradford) while also making a rival in Kate Libby (Angelina Jolie). The tale is simple and straightforward, a comedy of sorts set in a modern high school where Miller's rival soon becomes the love interest.
But in a movie in touch with an underground subculture that seems threatening to the mainstream public will obviously introduce an outside conflict that demonstrate the group is a threat to no one. Yes, this makes the plot a bit predictable, but it's the ride to that foreseeable conclusion that matters. For the first half, Moreu goes out of his way to make these kids likable, good-natured and innocent of inflicting harm to anyone. But when Fisher Stevens enters the picture as hacker turned computer security officer "The Plague," Miller's "Crash Override" is forced to call upon his talents to prove he and his friends are innocent of a potentially destructive computer virus.
It's a fun sci-fi romp that updates the familiar thriller formula to the modern digital age while also throwing a few subtle allusions into the mix. Lillard's Emmanuel Goldstein is from George Orwell's classic novel, "The Gibson" supercomputer refers to sci-fi author William Gibson, Santiago's Phantom Phreak is a phreak, as opposed to the stereotypical hacker, and one character quotes from the actual The Hacker Manifesto by notorious hacker "The Mentor." It's a smart display of knowing and entertainment which makes 'Hackers' a great deal of fun to watch and has garnered a well-deserved cult following.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout Factory unleashes 'Hackers' to Blu-ray as a 20th Anniversary Edition. The Region locked, BD50 disc is housed inside a standard blue keepcase with reversible cover art. At startup, viewers are taken to a colorful menu screen with the usual options, music and full-motion clips.
'Hackers' Blu-ray 20th Anniversary Edition Review: Angelina Jolie Hacks the 90s
By Andre Dellamorte
'Hackers' stars Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, and Matthew Lillard.
Hackers is the sort of film that was dated the minute it began production. From the music, to the costumes, to the tech, Hackers functions as a film of 1995 even more than something like Clueless, which is also celebrating its twentieth anniversary. That said the film, which has become a cult favorite, is thoroughly entertaining. Much of that may have to do with it now being a cultural artifact of what the culture thought computer hacking could or might be, but entertaining is entertaining.
Jonny Lee Miller stars as Dade, who also goes by the hacker name of Zero Cool, and who starts the film being arrested for hacking at the age of eleven. Moving to New York with his mom, his ban from computers has finally been lifted, and of course he goes right back to hacking, coming in contact with the hacker “Acid Burn” online, and finds that he has competition. He also enrolls in school, where he quickly falls in with the hacker kids Joey (Jesse Bradford), Cereal (Matthew Lillard) and Phreak (Renoly Santiago), and quickly forms a love/hate relationship with Kate (Angelina Jolie) who is also a hacker. Joey is looking to prove himself and so he hacks into the corporation that the hacker known as The Plague (Fisher Stevens) works for, and downloads part of a program that’s stealing money from the company. To keep his job The Plague gets Joey arrested but is unable to retrieve the disc that Joey hid. And so he goes after Dade, knowing his past history. But going after hackers is a dangerous business, and so Dade joins forces with Kate to take down The Plague.
If you have fond memories of Orbital, Massive Attack, The Prodigy and Leftfield, this film is going to trigger some nostalgia, but if you don’t know those bands at all, you’ll probably spend a good chunk of the movie laughing at how the film thinks computers work. The mid-nineties were a peak period of Hollywood knowing about the internet but not really having a clue how it works, and there are other equally hilarious examples of how Hollywood thought computers worked. (It isn’t really until the last decade that movie computers function as real computers do; the eighties are also stuffed full of magic computing). For the most part the tech isn’t terrible, but to make it more cinematic, the interfacing is silly with ugly big fonts. Then again, trying to make coding visual is a nightmarish task, so it’s no surprise that it gets goofy.
What’s surprising is how the film manages to make itself as cinematic as possible while following computer nerds, and how it makes the romance between Kate and Dade engaging. It’s no surprise that Miller and Jolie got married after the film because they are great on screen together. Director Iain Softley was coming off the modest indie hit Backbeat, and though he never really found his way in Hollywood, he knows how to work with a young cast, and has some fun visual tricks up his sleeve. The film may be more entertaining now because it’s so silly, but it was silly in its time and now that it’s a period piece those pleasures are more bountiful.
Shout Factory has released a 20th Anniversary Edition that presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Films twenty years old tend to be well looked after, so it’s no surprise the transfer here is great. Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer, and a look back that features comments from Softley, actors Fisher Stevens, Matthew Lillard, and Penn Jillette, costume designer Roger Burton, visual effects artist Peter Chiang, hacking consultants Nicholas Jarecki and Emmanuel Goldstein and critic Mark Kermode. It runs 64 minutes and is fairly thorough, though one wishes that some of the key cast could have been involved, but it does give a sense that everyone involved really tried to intuit where hacking culture would go, and that some of the tech and ideas aren’t as absurd as they might appear on the outset.
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