Tag Archives: virtuosity

Virtually Speaking: An Interview with Brett Leonard by Kent Hill

 

My Grandmother was the avid cinema-goer in our family. She passed her love of movies down to my Mother who in turn, passed it on to me. Another little boy who learned about the wonders of the movies from his Mother was Brett Leonard.

This love would grow, forging a filmmaker whose career that has been eclectic, but always on the cutting edge. The man who was once a killer clown from outer space, has in many ways been one the pioneers in the eventually, all-compassing integration of the digital age into the celluloid art form. With his ground-breaking work in The Lawnmower Man, Leonard has since been blazing a trail  throughout the industry. His early concepts of combining virtual reality with the cinematic experience are still expanding, and his vision of where it is all going to go, is far from complete.

Yet I was fascinated with the journey this humble gentleman has taken. He has worked both independently and with the studios, he has directed some of the finest actors to grace the screen, he has bore the brunt of the dark politics that whirls below surface of the filmmaking process. Still, he manages to laugh it off and move on to the next project with an energy and optimism that has served him well.

I thrilled at the revelations Brett shared with me about his movies, which I admire greatly, but also about his personal adventures including something I was, I admit, grossly unaware of: he a spent a significant period of his life living and working here in Australia. To such an extent he even was labelled an Australian filmmaker by the local media. He said, in the great Down Under, he learned not only the true value of mateship, but also spent some of his most glorious days.

He was a pleasure to interview, a true gentleman, a fabulous filmmaker – ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Brett Leonard…

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Virtuosity: A Review by Nate Hill 

Nothing says the 90’s like Virtuosity, a big hunk of circuit board sleaze and cheese that is so of it’s time that it’s hard to watch it these days without believing it to be some kind of spoof. Re-reading that sentence it sounds like I was making some kind of underhanded compliment, which I suppose is a better outcome for a film to arrive at than some. It could have gotten stale or dated in a bad way. Well it’s definitely not stale (it is dated though), in fact it’s one of the liveliest flicks from back then, thanks mostly to a ballistic characterization from Russell Crowe. Crowe is Sid.6, a virtual reality program molded from the personalities of several different serial killers and designed to basically wreak havoc. This is exactly what happens when he escapes, or rather is let out by one of the maniacs at the research centre (Stephen Spinella). Sid is now flesh, blood and roughly 200 pounds of extremely skilled, remorseless killing material, running wild in the unsuspecting streets. The head of the Institute (William Forsythe) has the brilliant idea to recruit ex-cop whack job Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) to hunt Sid down and destroy him. Barnes has a bleak history with artificial intelligence, one that has left him with a cybernetic replacement arm and a huge chip on his shoulder. This is one mean, mean spirited film, as we are subjected to a manic Crowe as tortures, murders and maims innocent civilians with a grinning cavalier cadence the Joker would applaud. He’s off his nut here, something which clumsy bruiser Crowe rarely gets to do, so it’s a rare and extreme outing for him. Washington is perpetually angry, ill adjusted and violent here, and the lengths he goes to destroy Sid are almost as bad as his quarry’s homicidal antics. The cast is stacked with genre favourites, so watch for Costas Mandylor, Kevin J. O’Connor, Louise Fletcher, Kelly Lynch, Traci Lords and a weaselly William Fichtner. The special effects… well what can I say, this was the 90’s and they look like a computer game that’s been drenched in battery acid, then souped up with caffeine. There’s brief homages to video games in fact, and the opener where Crowe is still inside the program is fairly creative. I don’t know if the creators of the film were trying to say something about the dangers of virtual reality, but whatever it was, it’s sort of lost in a hurricane of unpleasent shenanigans that are admittedly entertaining. One thing that’s evident is that anyone who makes a computer program with the persona of one, let alone a handful of murderers is just begging for an incident. I suppose that’s the point here though, the catalyst for the whole deal. Crowe and Washington are great though, both down and dirtier than their characters in the next royal rumble they’d share, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. Fun stuff, if you have a strong gag reflex and don’t take yourself too seriously.