In the beginning, it was written that man and machine would be mortal enemies. Man listened and laid with the whore Hollywood to beget Metropolis, which begat Things to Come, which begat 2001: A Space Odyssey, which begat the dark force in Star Wars, which begat Blade Runner, which begat The Terminator and Robocop, which spawned incestuous sequel children, which begat grotesque abominations with fearful names such as Judge Dredd and Johnny Mnemonic.
Virtuosity, set in Los Angeles circa 1999, is the latest in a long and exhausted line of cautionary futuristic fables. It’s not the most tired action (that’s Tron), but don’t expect to get blown out of your seat. For all the energy expended on virtual-reality effects by director Brett Leonard, perpetrator of the f/x fizzles The Lawnmower Man and Hideaway (Alicia Silverstone’s way worst movie), you watch Virtuosity and think: What else is new?
Denzel Washington is a big help as Parker Barnes, the ex-cop in jail for taking revenge for the murder of his family. Parker gets paroled to track the Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe), a state-of-the-art killer robot. Sid’s nerdy creator, Daryl Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella, Tony winner for Broadway’s Angels in America), used 183 felon profiles to make the studly Sid the Big Kahuna in cyborg perversion.
Crowe, the Australian actor who was so good in Romper Stomper, has a hambone ball rampaging through this brutal fantasyland. Washington, Kelly Lynch as a criminologist and Louise Fletcher as chief of the president’s crime commission, are stuck playing things straight. Though Virtuosity connects all the dots to give audiences a roller-coaster ride, the movie begets nothing new: It’s stillborn.