Awesomely Bad Movies

Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller are l33t Hackers

Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller are l33t Hackers

The 1995 movie Hackers is so bad that you have to watch it on purpose … with intent. You could not, after seeing the poster artwork or watching the trailer, assume that it might actually be good and give it a go.

No, on the contrary the artwork and trailer for this movie have matured into virtual warning labels. Every attempt has been made to dissuade you from watching this mess of a movie, but you just laugh and press play.

I don’t even know where to start.

Hackers stars Angelina Jolie, Matthew Lillard, and some person called Jonny Lee Miller who you might know from the CBS series Elementary (which they describe as a modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes). That’s an oddly high number of well known actors appearing in a really crappy movie. Well it was 1995. A lot of movies sucked in the nineties. A lot of everything sucked in the nineties.

I don’t even know where to start. Let’s just jump right into it. Jonny Lee Miller is Dade Murphy. As an 11 year old, Dade was a computer prodigy going by the handle “Zero Cool”. He was arrested and charged with crashing 1,507 computer systems in a single day and causing a single-day, 7-point drop in the New York Stock Exchange.

Dade is barred from owning, possessing or using a computer until his 18th birthday and his family is fined $45,000. Interestingly he is also barred from using a touch tone phone. I didn’t think phone phreaking was present enough in pop culture to warrant inclusion in a movie about “Hackers”.

I guess that steep fine really put a strain on his parents’ marriage because fast forwarding to 1995 we find Dade and his divorced mother have moved to New York City. He enrolls in school and promptly starts to do a little “recreational hacking” of a local television station.

Within the virtual space of said TV station’s computer system Dade is confronted by rival hacker “Acid Burn” (Angelina Jolie) who claims the compromised system as her turf. Their rivalry spills over into “real life” but they ultimately become friends and together with a few other regrettable characters, form a little Hacker Scooby gang. (The 2002 Scooby Do movie is better than this if you just have some weird thing for Matthew Lillard.)

The group is hounded by an over zealous FBI agent after uncovering a sinister plot by an evil I.T. guy and a corrupt energy executive … Wait, stop. Just stop.

You know what? This is completely ridiculous. I’m not even going to finish the synopsis. This movie is stupendously bad. You’ll just have to suffer though it for the sake of a good laugh. It’s 1 hour and 47 minutes of your life that you are never getting back.

Hacking is just something young people do for fun

In this movie “hacking” is just something a particular clique of young people do for fun. It doesn’t seem to require any knowledge of system architecture or exploitable vulnerabilities therein. Just dial up any old bank or business and type in plain English the changes you want to effect and BOOM! You’re a l33t hacker son! You could for example cause a television network to air a particular program. Just as a side note, You’re aware that we had VCRs all the way back in the 1980’s, right? So there were definitely easier ways to watch whatever you wanted.

Going big-time. Hacking “the Gibson”.

The hackers (I cringe every time I type that word) refer to “mainframe” computer systems as “Gibsons” in reference to author William Gibson (Neuromancer, Pattern recognition). Not only is it insulting to link Gibson’s work to this 90’s nonsense train wreck, but when these kids say “mainframe” they are really taking about corporate mid-range systems (with no apparent security policies). Not the same thing. I know I’m being picky now, but that’s a far cray from the insane complexity of intrusion countermeasures and artificial intelligence found in Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy.

If you’re not familiar with William Gibson’s work then I strongly recommend that you acquaint yourself. Another awesomely bad movie from 1995, Johnny Mnemonic, was actually based on his work. It’s not exactly a good adaptation. It’s not even a very good movie, but maybe you should just watch that instead of Hackers.