RETRO MOVIE PICK OF THE MONTH – HACKERS (1995)
tHE year was 1995 and only the kid with the full-time employed parent with a head for managing money had a home PC. Do you recall the annoyance of waiting for that alien orgasm noise from your speakers as you logged onto the internet and
tHE year was 1995 and only the kid with the full-time employed parent with a head for managing money had a home PC. Do you recall the annoyance of waiting for that alien orgasm noise from your speakers as you logged onto the internet and connected to the dial-up network? Such analog times indeed.
I was still in co-ed catholic school at the time this movie was released. I can’t remember if it was successful in the theaters. I do, however, remember it staring that really attractive chick from CYBORG 2 before we all knew her as Angelina Jolie. It also starred Johnny Lee Miller who was sickboy from the classic film Trainspotting.
The concept of the film was completely foreign to me, as i said before – not too many people had home computers and majority of us even bothered to use them outside of homework, chat rooms, Mech-Warrior or DOOM and its fps offspring. However, this wasn’t the first movie featuring Hollywoods interest in the hacker subculture. The first and very successful hacker from from Hollyweird was the 80’s classic War Games. The only other film I can recall off the top of my head would be SNEAKERS which was a very very good movie also featuring the act of ‘Phreaking’ as it was called.
Phreaking is a slang term for hacking into secure telecommunication networks. The term phreaking originally referred to exploring and exploiting the phone networks by mimicking dialing tones to trigger the automatic switches using whistles or custom blue boxes designed for that purpose. Generally speaking, it was curiosity about how phone networks operated that motivated phreaks, rather than a desire to defraud telecommunications companies.
Phreaking has become synonymous with hacking now that networks have gone cellular and cracking them requires more clearly illegal methods.
So 1995 was the year that Hollyweird decided to give it another crack.
Now HACKERS is not a top-tier film. But through the avenue of Home Video and bootlegs in some of our neighborhoods it has become somewhat of a cherished classic by my generation. It featured realistic concepts (I say that loosely) but for the sake of entertainment used some unrealistic methods. The hacking is done using visual graphics and 3-D dioramas, instead of the real world program coding and displays. There are actual corporations and companies that hire security techs that were or are hackers and there are communities and groups of hackers that socialize and engage in friendly (mostly legal) competitions. We didn’t know this then because, well it was mainstream news except for very large hacks. These days the term is synonymous with treason, whistleblowing and anonymous cyber-vigilantes like Edward Snowden and Julian Asange (Wiki-leaks).
I’ve always said the hacking subculture is very similar to graffiti subculture. I love that. People going out of there way to get a rep. ‘Destroy N Build’ as i head once as a child. Using esoteric coding and monikers to get a name for themselves either for legal or illegal reasons or just for the sake of fun. Going where people aren’t supposed to go and raiding the nest.
The film follows Johnny Lee Millers character of Zero Cool as he moves with his mother to New York City and starts school in a pretty lit public school. There he meets other hackers Joey, Lord Nikon, The Phantom Phreak and Cereal Killer and becomes friends with them. Experiencing the fun NYC of the 1990’s, some of the fashion may be tragic but the decade was fabulous for house parties, indie record labels, dance music and subculture in general.
After a hacking into a GIBSON, Joey becomes entangled in a FBI investigation targeting hackers. When the corporate security tech The Plague gets involved, Zero Cool and his friends find themselves backed up against the wall being chased by the FBI and blackmailed by THE PLAGUE with the threat of a massive environmental disaster approaching.
The hacking itself may be fantastical and unrealistic but, the film is so much fun and innocent to its bone. However, there is a great Jolie nip-slip in the movie if you can spot it.
The locations were very low-budget and mostly on location all throughout Manhattan. The actors definitely look way older than they are supposed to be. But, meh – things happen that way in Hollyweird. If you can expect me to suspend disbelief enough to accept that teenagers are flying through cyberspace like the friggin Lawnmower Man then, I can look past an actor in his mid-twenties playing a teenager.
The music in this film is fantastic and date the movie very well. If you were like me and haunted TOWER RECORDS whenever, you cut class to either purchase or shoplift cd’s then you remember that the 90’s was the decade of the film soundtrack.. Soundtracks were everything. And Hackers had one of the best damn soundtracks ever; so good that it spawned three additional volumes of additional music= EPIC.
Songs featured: ‘Voodoo People’ by The Prodigy, ‘Protection’ by Massive Attack, ‘Halcyon+On+On’ by Orbital and songs from Luke Slater, Underworld, Leftfield, Carl Cox, Stereo MC’s and more and more and more.
It gets 4 erect modems out of 4. Watch It.
Hackers stars Johnny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Fisher Stevens, Matthew Lillard, Jesse Bradford, Laurence Mason, Lorraine Braco, Renoly Santiago, Marc Anthony and directed by Ian Softley.
Some critics praised the film for its stylish visuals but criticized its unconvincing look at hackers and their subculture. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, “The movie is smart and entertaining, then, as long as you don’t take the computer stuff very seriously. I didn’t. I took it approximately as seriously as the archeology in Indiana Jones“. On the show Siskel & Ebert, Ebert gave the film thumbs up while Gene Siskel gave the film thumbs down, saying, “I didn’t find the characters that interesting and I really didn’t like the villain in this piece. I thought Fisher Stevens was not very threatening… The writing is so arch” – wikipedia