Virtuosity, Wait until Dark

Virtuosity (1995) **1/2 So finally, after decades of futuristic scientists proclaiming that virtual reality will someday be here, it’s here – sort of. Hollywood’s always been a midwife for technology between the science industry and the common man, and in the area of virtual reality it’s given us “Johhny Mnemonic” and this actioner, starring Denzel Washington.

Basic plot is this: The police have been using virtual reality as a training method, to test recruits. Before they use it on real cops, though, they draft crooks out of prison to act as guinea pigs. This is where Washington comes in. A former cop (how convenient), Washington’s been rotting in jail for years. So the cops ask him to volunteer to be a part of the experiment, and of course he agrees – but the computer he’s going to be downloaded into has other plans. The ‘virtual’ cops are supposed to face this tough criminal in the system, you see, but the computer’s decided to combine all of the nasty characteristics of famous real-life killers – and then download itself into a real, sentient being (Russell Crowe). And of course it’s up to our man Washington to save the day.

So there you have it, folks. It’s a standard cops n robbers plot moved ahead a few centuries to take advantage of modern technology. Of course, it’s set in the future, which here is portrayed as busy, grimy, a bit crime-riddled.. Hmm, a lot like the present, come to think of it, and not very inventive. And the effects are nothing special, either; you’d think with virtual reality being the centerpiece you’d see some dazzling special effects. Not really.

The cast is good, and Crowe turns in a solid (if a bit hammy, but most bad guys are, aren’t they?) performance. Washington is no better or worse than usual, which means the real culprit is the script here. Do yourself a favor and wait for a two-for-one night at your video store to see this one.

Wait until Dark (1967) *** In this classic movie, the elegant Audrey Hepburn is a young blind woman, left alone by her husband in their apartment. That would be okay, except thugs have an idea that some heroin is hidden in a doll in the apartment. So naturally said thugs spend the day trying to get into the apartment and find the doll. Hepburn plays the scared damsel-in-distress well, and she doesn’t play her like a completely helpless fool, either. There are plenty of scenes that are relatively quiet, as the bad guys try to move around the apartment without Hepburn hearing them. The script keeps things moving along (not always easy when almost the entire movie takes place in the apartment), as the crooks try all sorts of means to get inside and get to the doll. How well they succeed more or less dictates how good the movie is, too: As they go, so goes the film.

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