The victims of “Virtuosity” are those poor souls who will be suckered in by its high-tech premise and then find themselves sitting through just another drab exploitation flick.
That premise concerns Sid 6.7, a computer-generated criminal whose program is based on the personalities of hundreds of psycho-killers. Sid was created to train cops in a virtualreality environment, but he - it? - gets into an android body and wreaks havoc in the real world.
Denzel Washington plays Parker Barnes, an ex-cop who, as the story begins, is serving a prison sentence for running amok while trying to avenge the deaths of his wife and daughter.
Parker turns out to be the man best suited to hunt down Sid, whose programmed personalities include the killer of Parker’s family. In exchange for the promise of a pardon, our hero springs into action.
The word virtuosity means “great technical skill.” It’s usually applied to the fine arts, but the term might also be used in relation to a movie like this one.
There’s technical skill in the way that director Brett Leonard (“The Lawnmower Man”) and his crew bring Sid to life - or rather, to artificial life. And, yes, there is also a certain wit in their having given the villain the smooth, generic features of a TV anchor and an insatiable appetite for media attention.
But that’s pretty much all the film has to offer by way of inspiration. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of shooting, screaming and dangerous driving.
Washington gets lost in this pulpy picture, which is clearly beneath his talent. So does the long-limbed Kelly Lynch (“Drugstore Cowboy”), who plays a criminal psychologist.
Only Russell Crowe (“The Quick and the Dead”) seems to be having any fun at all.
It is, I suppose, a compliment to say that as Sid, Crowe doesn’t seem quite human. His raspy Eastwoodesque voice is right for the cyber-psycho-killer.
Not much later, there’s an odd little scene in which Sid, who has donned a purple suit, is seen walking along like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive.” It has been almost two decades since parodies of that particular film have been fashionable.
I sure hope this movie won’t bring them back.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Virtuosity” Locations: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Brett Leonard, starring Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Kelly Lynch Running time: 1:46 Rating: R