The ’90s kids out there no doubt recall the decade was spotted with similarly themed, technophobic tales like Johnny Mnemonic (1995), The Lawnmower Man (1992), and Brainscan (1994), with each offering their own take on the virtual world that was just beginning to encroach on our reality. While the ’90s delivered a handful of game-changing altered reality thrillers — see: Strange Days (1995), Dark City (1998), and The Matrix (1999) — the bulk of the decade’s cyberpunk-inspired tales were less than memorable.
Virtuosity is often lumped in with the forgettable lot. While the film’s less-than-fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating is hardly unearned, even haters have to admit it’s a lot more fun than most of its virtual reality brethren. Russell Crowe’s wondrously unhinged turn as SID 6.7 is a major draw, and even the film’s dated visual effects craft an intriguing aesthetic in the context of their time.
Russell Crowe isn’t actually the star of the show, either. The disgraced former cop tasked with bringing SID 6.7 to justice is the focal point of the film. That character is portrayed by screen titan Denzel Washington. Exactly what drew an actor of Washington’s caliber (he’d already netted an Oscar for his work in 1989’s Glory) to a project like Virtuosity remains a mystery. He’s clearly having his own fun trading scenes with Crowe, however, and it really is an absolute hoot to watch them go toe-to-toe.
As it happens, Virtuosity also marks the big-screen debut of The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco, which should give sci-fi fandom all the more reason hit up Hulu and check it out today.