#WayBackWednesday – Virtuosity (1995)

We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. It’s time to do it with Virtuosity.

So…sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.

I don’t know about you, but today’s #WayBackWednesday film, Virtuosity, was definitely not on my radar. Frankly, I find that impressive for a few reasons.

  1. I adore B-level action films unabashedly and unironically.
  2. DENZEL.
  3. It’s a sci-fi cyberpunk action flick with mid-90s CGI.
  4. Russell Crowe!
  5. I have an insatiable love for awesomely bad movies.
  6. Did I mention DENZEL?!

My local video store, VisArt Video, shared a photo on their Instagram stories this week, which made me do a double-take. A cyberpunk film with Denzel? How have I never heard of this before? I knew I had to check it out. (P. S. VisArt has what is perhaps the largest video collection on the east coast with 30,000+ titles–great for a lover of obscure film like me).

Virtuosity rides the line between awesome and bad so well that I think it’s worthy of your attention. Check out the trailer for Virtuosity and we’ll get started with #WayBackWednesday.

Source

Virtuosity focuses on an ex-cop, Lt. Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington), who is serving time for killing the serial killer who murdered his family. Brought in to hunt down a Sadistic Intelligent Dangerous computer-simulated villain, SID 6.7 (Russell Crowe) that possesses the personalities of 183 serial killers has made his way into the real world. What’s worse, SID 6.7 possesses the personality of the man who killed Parker’s family. Now it’s personal.

Sound a little over the top?

That’s because it is.

Virtuosity, while absurdly over the top with its villain and storyline, does have some shine to it. Has Denzel Washington ever been bad in a movie, even when the movie isn’t that great? I don’t think so. Virtuosity is worth watching, just to get a glimpse at this deep cut from Denzel’s resumé. As always, Denzel plays the perfect tough-as-nails action hero. Where Virtuosity lacks strength, Denzel is up to the challenge, bringing his A-game.

Russell Crowe is great as SID 6.7, really ramping up the murderous antics, solidifying him for the homicidal psychopath he really is. His actions are erratic, and he does it all with a smile. It’s quite creepy. Aside from Denzel and Crowe, there are some other standouts from the cast–Kelly Lynch, William Forsythe, and even a very young Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory fame.

One thing I find fascinating when I go back to visit these older science fiction flicks is to look at how they handle futuristic elements with special effects. For 1995, I am actually still impressed with the CGI elements of the film. The filmmakers did a good job of sprinkling in CGI in the virtual reality simulation, while also mimicking a realistic video game. Utilizing repetitive and mechanical movement and repeated lines of dialogue, the filmmakers took real humans and made them believable NPCs in a virtual reality setting. The parts that rely more heavily on CGI still look decent, which I find more impressive 25 years later than I may have in 1995.

The soundtrack for Virtuosity screams mid-90s action film as well. It’s got a driving rock soundtrack powered by artists like Debbie Harry, The Worldbeaters & Peter Gabriel, and Live. The final song over the credits evokes the Mortal Kombat theme for me, which smacks this film solidly in the realm of 90s action flicks. I’d put this soundtrack on to clean house because it would keep me upbeat and moving. Give it a listen if you’d like some solid rock beats.

If you’re looking for a mid-90s popcorn flick that boasts a good cast, cyberpunk, and great action, give Virtuosity a try. If you’ve heard of this lesser-known item on Denzel’s resumé, I want to hear your thoughts in the comments as well.
Virtuosity is available at VisArt Video, CBS All Access, Plex, Crackle, and Pluto TV.
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