It's just a recycled chase film with Cyberspace aspirations.

THE NET

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Although "The Net" sells itself as a hip thriller and master of the Internet, it is really just warmed over soup. It has none of the charm or eye-popping wonder of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," by which even the ignorant among us were held in thrall to the mystery that unfolded on the then unfamiliar monitor.

We wait longingly to be pulled into the excitement, to care about the people and the cause, but director Irwin Winkler cannot make a thriller of a script full of holes. Midway, we know we've been taken. It's just a recycled chase film with Cyberspace aspirations. The filmmakers are telling us that something diabolically clever is going on on-screen, but we are unworthy of knowing the details.

Maybe it's not quite that bad. Sandra Bullock makes a fine heroine of Angela, a computer expert whose specialty is fixing other people's systems. She's a solid presence to be trusted, a vulnerable person we can root for. Somewhere out there, in a clever program called "Mozart's Ghost," she tangles with "The Iceman," a cold, smart hacker who stays one step ahead of Angela throughout the confusion.

The Iceman, a.k.a. Jack Devlin, is an old-fashioned stalker with newfangled weapons. The battlefield is familiar: the open sea, dark stair wells, a crowded convention floor with a villain on the loose. The centerpiece, of course, is the endangered woman. Instead of the secret codes or microfilms of yore, it's a disk that she guards.

Jack wants that disk, and to get it, he erases Angela's identity both on the computer and in the real world. It's a good premise, the worst extension of our fears of the computer world. During all this we begin to understand that national security is somehow just as endangered as Angela. Bring us in, Irwin Winkler! But he doesn't. The stakes are high, but what are they?

When an audience isn't made part of the game, everything on-screen turns dull. This is a flat and lazy movie. Can you believe you will see yet another car approach a yawning drawbridge, another chase through a whirling merry-go-ground?

Watching Angela order pizza by computer while she solves software dilemmas to a good musical score is a promising beginning. But Jack, while properly scary in his evil, is a stalker whose footsteps we fear without knowing why he hates our heroine. Sandra Bullock and Jeremy Northam are let down badly by their scriptwriters and director, who set them adrift in the debris of an undefined plot.

Although there is periodic suspense, how can we be really scared when we don't understand the enemy? The unfrocking of the mastermind in the final frames carries no punch because we never wondered who he was in the first place. By now you must be asking about the cause of all the murder and mayhem. What was on that crucial disk? We still don't know, and that's the problem.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 490
Studio : Columbia
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h52m


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