Blu-Ray Review: Virtuosity

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I’ll watch pretty much anything starring Denzel Washington. I’ll also watch just about anything featuring Russell Crowe. Somehow the 1995 sci-fi thriller Virtuosity got past me, even though it stars both actors. That’s likely because it was a bomb that didn’t find much favor among critics or moviegoers. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has recently issued the film on Blu-ray for the first time, allowing it to be possibly rediscovered.

Not that it really deserves to be, as it is far from a bright spot on either stars’ resume. Brett Leonard directed this slog following the sleeper hit The Lawnmower Man and the Alicia Silverstone thriller Hideaway (during Silverstone’s hot period, when there was seemingly an audience for anything she was in). He hasn’t done anything nearly as mainstream since, probably because Virtuosity plays like a warmed-over rehash of numerous superior sci-fi flicks, including Terminator and Demolition Man.

But there is admittedly some mild fun in seeing a young Russell Crowe ham it up as a virtual reality, serial killer android called SID 6.7. Crowe invests just enough goofy, maniacal glee to make this a fun performance. He’s being pursued by shamed cop Parker Barnes (Washington, apparently showing up just to cash a paycheck) who has been serving jail time for killing the man who killed his family. He’s granted a “work release” to track down and destroy SID 6.7, shades of Washington’s superior role a few years later in Spike Lee’s He Got Game actually. What follows is a convoluted stew of a plot that defies easy recap. Suffice it to say, as a special effects extravaganza it might’ve impressed 20 years ago but the visuals look pretty dated today. Watch it for the cat-and-mouse antics of its two stars.

Paramount distributed the film theatrically, Warner is handling it high definition home video debut. Gale Tattersall’s cinematography is presented with reasonable clarity and detail. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack shows off prolific composer Christopher Young’s rather generic score (to be fair, he scored quite a few of these so-so thrillers back in the day, including contemporaneous films like Murder in the First, Species, Unforgettable).

What, no extras?? Say it ain’t so, Warner Bros.! It’s true though, there’s absolutely nothing to be found here, no EPK featurette, no trailer, no TV spots. Nada. Consider yourself warned.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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