You know what all the cool kids were up to in the 1990s? They were showing off their computer hacking skills, whizzing around on rollerblades, listening to The Prodigy, and playing pre-release versions of Wipeout (not the gameshow, the classic Playstation game). How do I know this, despite not being one of the cool kids at that time? Because that's what every one of the leads does in Hackers, and this is a film populated almost exclusively by characters deemed to be cool.
There's a dangerous virus that threatens major harm to a big corporation, unless a payment of $25M is made, and things have been set up to pin the blame on a bunch of teenage hackers. Jonny Lee Miller is Dade, Angelina Jolie is Kate, Jesse Bradford is Joey, Matthew Lillard is Cereal, Laurence Mason is Nikon, and Renoly Santiago is Phreak. They're the good guys. Fisher Stevens is a man who works for the big company being threatened, and he likes to go by the name The Plague. He's not with the good guys. Nor is Agent Dick Gill (played by Wendell Pierce). To be fair, the hackers don't do much to make themselves look innocent as the authorities try to get to the bottom of this major, dangerous, security breach.
Hackers is ridiculous. It's a number of cool and funky moments strung together by an unbelievable plot that surely felt dated just a few years after it was initially released. The script by Rafael Moreu alternates between amusing and cringe-inducing, and director Iain Softley doesn't do anything in half measures, whether it's the fashion choices, soundtrack, or graphic design displaying the hacking sequences (main headshot of character, camera rotates around, and keystrokes and symbols are illuminated around them). But that's not necessarily the wrong way to treat this material, which is why the ridiculousness of it all ends up making it a fun viewing experience.
The relatively young cast helps, with a lot of likable performers on the cusp of reaching the next level in terms of success and recognisability (both Miller and Lillard would do very well just a year later, with Trainspotting and Scream, respectively). Miller is a lot of fun in the lead role, the cocky outsider who quickly gets in with the hacking clique, Jolie is some kind of ubercool cyber-pixie, and everyone else does their best to show that they're separate from the non-hacking plebicites that surround them. Fisher Stevens is also a lot of fun in his role, all arrogance and disdain for those around him, Wendell Pierce does well, and Lorraine Bracco is good with her underwritten role. And you even get a small role for Penn Jillette, and a fleeting cameo from Dave "Eurythmics" Stewart.
Although it's never going to be a film that you first think of when wanting something to watch for an evening, you could do a lot worse than this. It knows exactly what it is, it is very much of the time it was made, and it's difficult to hate. I enjoyed it, and I wouldn't rule out rewatching it at some point.
YES, I just pre-ordered this release.
Americans can pick up this one.