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Hackers (1995, Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie)

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When the cast of Iain Softley’s follow-up to Backbeat spent three weeks in ‘Hacker camp’ prior to shooting, the skills they had to learn included speed typing and rollerblading. They were obviously good students, for both feature heavily in this energetic and thoroughly enjoyable teen thriller set in the world of computer hacking.

‘The plot is irrelevant when you’ve got this much verve,’ The Independent commented, adding that ‘techno-geeks the world over should bow at Iain Softley’s feet: he’s hinted that charisma and computers may not be incompatible after all.’ The Sunday Express echoed these sentiments, noting, ‘The sequences in which a battle royal is conducted over the Internet will excite even the most ungracious luddite.’

Jonny Lee Miller (fresh from playing Sick Boy in Trainspotting ) stars as Dade (aka Crash Override), a veteran computer hacker, even though he’s still only a teenager (he was previously responsible for causing the collapse of Wall Street). Now relocated to New York, he finds himself welcomed by most of the members at his new school’s hacking gang – led by Phantom Phreak (Renoly Santiago) and Cereal Killer (Matthew Lillard) – but rebuffed by Kate (Angelina Jolie), who is also a red-hot hacker with the alias of Acid Burn. The gang’s games enter dangerous terrain when they stumble across a plan by The Plague (Fisher Stevens) which threatens to sink a number of computer-controlled supertankers. The teenagers become the prime suspects for the scam, and are forced to go on the run while simultaneously attempting to clear their names and avert an ecological disaster.

Although the film seemed an odd choice for Brit director Softley, he saw Hackers as a natural progression from Backbeat , explaining, ‘I’m interested in subcultures at the point where they break through and become difficult for mainstream culture to ignore.’ With more in common with War Games than The Net , Hackers is a cyber-thriller that’s notable for its unpatronising depiction of teenagers and the slick way it depicts the numerous computer battles. There are also strong performances from Miller and Jolie in the leads (the duo were also romantically linked off-screen, although their marriage subsequently collapsed) and Matthew Lillard, recently seen in the black comedy Dead Man’s Curve .

production details
USA | 107 minutes | 1995

Director: Iain Softley
Script: Rafael Moreu,

cast
Lorraine Bracco as Margo
Laurence Mason as Paul Cook / ‘Lord Nikon’
Felicity Huffman as Attorney
Michael Gaston as S.S. Agent Bob
Jonny Lee Miller as Dade Murphy / ‘Crash Override’ / ‘Zero Cool’
Angelina Jolie as Kate Libby / ‘Acid Burn’
Jesse Bradford as Joey Pardella
Matthew Lillard as Emmanuel Goldstein / ‘Cereal Killer’
Renoly Santiago as Ramon Sanchez / ‘Phantom Phreak’
Fisher Stevens as Eugene Belford / ‘The Plague’ / Mr. Babbage
Alberta Watson as Lauren Murphy
Wendell Pierce as S.S. Agent Richard Gill
Marc Anthony as S.S. Agent Ray
Penn Jillette as Hal
Peter Y. Kim as Blade
Darren Lee as Razor
Liza Walker as Laura
Bob Sessions as Duke Ellingson
Ethan Browne as Curtis
Blake Willett as S.S. Agent, Seattle
Max Ligosh as Young Dade Murphy / ‘Zero Cool’
Jeff Harding as 2nd V.P.
Paul Klementowicz as Michael Murphy
Denise George as Denise
William DeMeo as Jock