I’m going to preemptively defend myself here: I love trash films most of the time. I watched The Bye Bye Man, for Christ’s sake. It was atrocious, but honestly, I kind of love that I hate it so much. It’s a weird feeling. But you’re not here to read about my gross, icky feelings, you’re here to read about my gross, icky feelings about movies.
Hackers might just be the most ’90s movie I’ve ever seen. I cannot stress this enough: Hackers might just be steeped in it’s own decade more than any other movie in existence. Everything about the ’90s shows up in Hackers, and even the plot itself couldn’t have been conceived in any other decade.
Dade “Crash Override” Murphy (Jonny Lee Miller) has just moved to New York City with his mom and has enrolled in a new high school in his senior year. He’s excited, not just for a new start but because he’s been banned by law from interacting with any computers or touchtone phones since he was eleven years old, and now the ban has been lifted. How was young Dade banned from using computers? Well, he hacked with them. He hacked so good that he caused a stock market crash in 1988 and crashed over fifteen hundred computers. Dade makes friends with Kate “Acid Burn” Libby (Angelina Jolie!), Ramon “The Phantom Phreak” Sanchez, Emmanuel “Cereal Killer” Goldstein, and Paul “Lord Nikon” Cook, all young students who are also a part of the local hacking scene. Why the crazy alias, you might ask? Because on the internet you need a sick, radical username when you’re surfing the net and fighting the good fight, man. The the hacker gang gets framed by Eugene “The Plague” Belford (who always insists on being called by his online alias), another hacker who happens to work for the FBI and who is framing innocent hackers for a virus that is causing oil ships to capsize and pollute the ocean.
I want you to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation here. The bad guy has hacked a bunch of boats so hard they flipped over and caused an environmental crisis. Bogus! It’s up to our ragtag group of hackers to take down the man and clear their names once and for all so they can continue to do their illegal
Like I said, Hackers couldn’t have been made any other time in history. Not just from the atrocious and cringy ’90s slang and the affront to fashion as a collective whole, either. The internet was fully made fully public by 1995, so the wonders of the world wide web and home computing were still novelties when Hackers came out. There was still a wonder and mysticism that came with this technology that the average person still had, or so the makers of this movie thought. Now, full disclosure. I was three years old when Hackers first came out, but I’m pretty sure most people knew what was and wasn’t possible with a computer in 1995. Hackers isn’t about the nitty gritty details of the capabilities of a computer, and it doesn’t pretend to even care. Hackers is about our cadre of main characters, and their evolution from unfriendly rivals, to friendly rivals, and ultimately to friends. Dade takes a liking to Kate, and over ninety minutes we get to see them go from awkwardly pranking each other to awkwardly making out in a pool. The Plague isn’t just some faceless villain, he’s a totally radical skateboarding, pop guzzling 40 year old hacker who really isn’t much different from our heroes. Tell me that isn’t a true creative expression of character and story.
Hackers might be about it’s characters at it’s core, but I never said it was any good at actually portraying that.
So, where’s the fun in Hackers? How come it got a Shout! Factory Blu-Ray re-release when great movies like Tombstone are still being put out on run of the mill DVD? What does Hackers offer that people seem to so readily want to gobble up? Watching Hackers can give you maybe one of the best movie nights you’ve had in a while. You need to watch it the right way, though. Grab some friends, some beers (or in our case, coffee) and settle yourselves in for a wild ride. Throw it up on a big TV so you can see every inch of Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie’s faces, distorted from the projected light coming off whatever hacking vehicle they happens to be using at the time. Make sure you run it through some good speakers, or at the very least crank the volume so you can hear each and every stupid beep and boop that rings out when somebody starts their computer wizardry.
Hackers is dumb. Hackers is stupid. But watch Hackers like this, and I guarantee you and your friends will be howling and guffawing and rubbing your temples throughout and well after the movie is over. Hackers is a terrible, terrible movie, but I kind of fucking loved watching it. I can’t even fathom how bored out of my skull I would be watching it alone. I think the only time I’d ever give it another go is to show a different group of friends, a sort of B-movie ritual that I find my life lacking in recently. Maybe I’ll show it to some of my friends who work in the computer science field, just to see if you can hear it if somebody rolls their eyes hard enough.
It is imperative that Hackers be watched the right way, or not at all.