October 14, 2014: Hackers (1995)

hackers

Cast and Crew: Ian Softley (Director), Simon Boswell (Music); Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie

What It’s About: Ever wonder what life was like in high school — other than at Beverly Hills High — while, say, The Crow was rocking out in the clubs of Detroit?  Watch this film and learn of the awesome power of 28.8 bps modems, which allow you to surf the Matrix — I mean the Internet — in full three-dimensional glory while trading insults with a skateboarding ferret.  (No, unlike the gopher in Caddyshack, I don’t mean it literally this time.  The bad guy is just really ferrety.)

Our hero is Dade Murphy, alias Zero Cool, alias Crash Override.  Jonny Lee Miller (grandson of Bernard Lee, M in the original Bond movies) has a bit of a weird accent because he’s actually English, but his clothing ensembles are so incredibly awful that, looking back at one’s own Nineties horrors, it’s actually pretty believable.  Perhaps on the strength of their chemistry in this film, Miller married Angelina Jolie the next year, which was also his breakout year with a role in Trainspotting.  Angelina (herself a Hollywood legacy, of course, being Jon Voight’s daughter), several years before her Lara Croft breakout, plays Kate a.k.a. Acid Burn, a rival hacker with a really souped up — i.e. dated — laptop and a biker boyfriend straight out of Rumble in the Bronx.  In the middle are four accommodating and insanely dressed fellow hackers: Lord Nikon (who probably graduated high school in the same geological era as Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused), Joey (who doesn’t have a “handle”), Phantom Phreak (who wears leopard print seriously 100% of the time), and Cereal Killer (imagine Jay from Clerks wearing Lennon glasses and quoting everything from Allen Ginsberg to apocryphal Ozzy to Corinthians 1:13).

Framed for past and future crimes they have no intention of committing, the crew engage a global network of fellow hackers (including ravers, Asian-American pirate cable jockeys, and goth Italians) to implicate and punish their opponents.  Counter-culture wins the day, but everything else plays out according to a predictable comedy plotline.  It’s charming fluff with a ridiculous techno-evangelist streak.  Speaking of techno, the soundtrack is either classic or ridiculous, or both, depending on your point of view.

Why Watch it Today?: Today people around the world are celebrating Ada Lovelace Day.  While we are on the topic of children of celebrities, she was the daughter of Lord Byron, the famous poet.  Trained as a mathematician in the nineteenth century, she befriended Charles Babbage and wrote visionary treatises and computational algorithms that played a key role in the intellectual foundations of the discipline of computer science.  You can read more about her contributions in this new book.  Acid Burn isn’t exactly the most convincing coder girl, but Hackers is a fun and silly way to appreciate how computing has changed and continues to change.  Maybe, in this millennium, we can reclaim women’s early role and make control over the machines that run our world a discipline that is open to all humans.

Men in leather pants are back!  And it’s not just lederhosen in the affiliated holiday this time.  At least two of our protagonists (Lord Nikon and Cereal Killer) sport leather or vinyl, and Crash Override/Zero Cool himself dons what appears to be a pair of crotch-high leather boots.  

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2 comments on “October 14, 2014: Hackers (1995)

  1. T.A. Gerolami says:

    I am blown away that Johnny Lee Miller is Bernard Lee’s grandson. While Lee will always be M to me, I also love his turn as a lovable Sergeant in The Third Man.

  2. T.A. Gerolami says:

    I had to check-but Cereal Killer is played by Matthew Lillard, who went on to play Shaggy on screen and TV as well as playing actual killers.

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