Virtuosity is both my second favorite Denzel Washington movie and my second favorite Russel Crowe movie. Its also one of my all time favorite science fiction films. Pretty good for a film sitting at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Virtuosity is about a computer program named Sid 6.7 who is used a a bad guy in VR simulation. By bad guy I mean he is inputed with the personality traits andof hundreds of killers. The simulation is meant to train cops but is being tested out on convicts to work out the kinks and Sid brings a lot of problems when as able to kill one of the players. The creator tricks a fellow programmer into bringing Sid to life as an android. Obviously Sid goes off and starts killing and the only person the cops can turn to is a former cop and current convict who got close to Sin the game. Partnered with a criminal psychologist the two go after the deadly Sid 6.7. is a combination of typical sci-fi and police action film tropes. You got the cyborg killer on the loose and the only one who can stop him is the disgraced cop he gets released from jail to do it. Yet it works.
I was a fan since day one. This isn’t some film I caught late night on Showtime or wandered by in the cult films section of the Blockbuster or Hollywood Video (God rest both their souls). No, I saw this movie the weekend it came out. Denzel was not the megastar he is now but was a pretty well respected actor and definitely one of the few black leads of the mid-90s. Crowe was unknown with this, and the Quick and the Dead in the same year, being his entry into US film market. Crowe was fun as the wacky Sid 6.7, probably the silliest I have ever seen him in a film. He should play more deranged bad guys. Denzel is doing Denzel cool before it was Denzel cool. Straight and to the point, overpowering the scenes, bringing gravitas to a movie that looks like something SyFy channel would produce now except with Denzel its elevated. The cast is filled out with some players you see in other works like Willaim Forsythe or William Fichtner. The film also features the debut of Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco and a cameo by notorious pornstar turned singer turned b-film actress Traci Lords.
Virtuosity is something else. Just taking a type of cop drama and throwing in science fiction elements and yet it comes together. The scene where Sid takes over a club and records the hostages screams into a sampler to make music is one of the amusing ones. I think there is a bit of the Joker in the character-not just that scene but the big smile and purple suit he sports part way through the film. They give Denzels character Parker Barnes the serious cop who lost everything backstory which is a bit eye rolling but ts Denzel so you just buy it. His scenes with co-star Kelly lynch who plays psychologist Madison carter are strong, as is his scenes with Sid. Sid enjoys the chase, once again reminded me of a Batman/Joker dynamic.
Virtuosity is not a science fiction film that elevates the genre in film. If anything its a classic action film trope given a life by the sci-fi trappings. Denzels straight and dynamic performance mixed with Crowes over-the-top bounces the film somewhere between serious and camp, creating the right feel for a movie that without the actors hired would be total crap. Seriously, the direction is not really anything special and the effects were pretty lackluster when this was released. Yet those actors and even the score and soundtrack make Virtuosity a favorite film. Check it out.