Hackers [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (16th November 2018).
The Film

They can break any code and get inside any system. They are often still in their teens and already under surveillence by authorities. They are the hackers. Zero Cool - real name Dade Murphy - is a legend among his peers. In 1988 he single-handedly crashed 1,507 computers on Wall Street and was forbidden by law to touch another keyboard until his 18th birthday. Itís been seven years without a byte... and heís hungry. Kate Libby, handle Acid Burns, has a souped up lap-top that can do 0 to 60 on the infobahn in a nanosecond. When the two collide, the battle of the sexes goes into hard drive. But all bets are off when master hacker The Plague frames Dade, Kate and their friends in a diabolical industrial conspiracy. Now they are the only ones who can prevent a catastrophe... unlike any the world has ever seen.

Video

Flashy adventure about computer hackers is very much of it's time, but the characters are fun, if mostly style and posture, and Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie have bags of chemistry; in the roles that made them, they married and divorced within a few years.

For it's time it strayed into scifi and future prediction - like the contemporaneous The Net - and now seems quaint and very dated but remains a well made, fun view. Very much a film from the point of view of the young, with the authority figures being ineffectual, patronising and incompetent.

Simon Boswell contributes a stunning score, which sadly doesn't seem to have had a complete CD release. This would make a killer triple bill with the two other 1995 cyber thrillers: the aforementioned The Net and Johnny Mnemonic.

This being a '90s film we get a cleaner, clearer look than the '80s with less of that hazy, pastel shaded look with smoke everywhere that was pioneered by music videos and MTV. Rich, vibrant colour palettes with a fine grain field is the order of the day here.

The compositing of opticals was getting better and assembly in the digital domain was in it's infancy. SPFX shots occasionally have a softer look but seem to stand up better than a decade before in terms of loss of definition and courser grain fields. Grain is ever present lending this a very film-like appearance throughout and a filmic softness when compared to modern digitally shot films which are often too sharp.

Black levels are very satisfying with no signs of crush and plenty of detail; contrast is in sympathy allowing details in lighter surfaces to shine and not allowing crush or blowouts. Skin tines are warm and natural; textures are nicely rendered with plenty of detail in surfaces.

I could detect no digital garbage or other egregious problems left over from digital tinkering. I'm guessing that this is an older master from the vaults of MGM/UA and being a film of relatively recent vintage it's in great shape. 88 Film's encode is well up to the challenge and this is easily one of their best looking releases yet. This disc marks a great improvement on their recent release of Wes Craven Presents: Mind Ripper (also from 1995) which had brightness issues. No such problems here.

Fans of this cult classic sleeper are going to be very happy with this new Blu-ray edition which trumps the US version by porting over the superb extras on that edition but by adding an exclusive commentary and a fabulous 5.1 track.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 105:22

Audio

Audio
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English HoH

Superb, that's all there is to say. The original 2.0 Stereo track is decent but lacks range and depth; purists will be happy it's included, but the 5.1 track is a whopper. The track is very active with Boswell's superb score getting a major boost from the surrounds not present in the 2.0. Everything has been opened up with a greatly expanded sound field where sounds fly at you in all directions. Obviously, it lacks the absolute depth, power and range a modern 2018 track of similar ambition would have but I think this is as good as can be for a film of this age today.

Subtitles are as always welcome and essential.

Extras

Audio Commentary by director Ian Softley and critic Mark Kermode

A warm, affectionate very detailed commentary from director Softley and this film's number one champion, Mark Kermode who also appears to be a personal friend of the director's. Essential for fans of the film and a massive trump card for UK purchasers as this is exclusive to this release.

"The Keyboard Cowboys" documentary (63:55)

A superb, wide ranging retrospective that covers the whole Hacker cyberpunk subculture and how it led to the film. The most impressive aspect of the production is how far the makers went to ensure the film was accurate to the subculture. This was created for the US Shout! Factory Blu-ray release.

Theatrical Trailer (2:36)

Solid promo piece sells the films then up to date credentials.

Overall

A first rate release from 88 Films of this cult item that failed on it's initial release to find an audience but since has been taken to the bosom of a loyal fanbase. Picture and sound are as good as can be given the older master used, but even if that is a given it's hard to see how the image could be improved shy of a 4K UHD Blu-ray release. Extras are chunky, substantial and very satisfying.

The price is right and the disc is glorious; THE definitive home video release of Softley's film.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A+

 


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