3 1/2 Stars
Cuba Gooding Jr. once again plays a man who’s lost his family in a car accident and is on the hunt for revenge against the men that orchestrated the tragedy in Hardwired. An interesting sci-fi angle and a satirical view of advertising turn this average thriller into an entertaining and unexpectedly thought-provoking good time. In the near future corporations have bailed out the government and are the ruling party in America. Advertising space is in short-supply so the biggest corporations have taken to stamping their logos on famous landmarks or projecting them holographically into the night sky. After recovering from head trama inflicted during the crash Luke Gibson (Gooding) is saved by a controversial new procedure funded by the omni-present HOPE corp. The surgery leaves Gibson with a chip in his head that projects lifelike images that continually try to sell him the latest watch or most refreshing drink. Its like those annoying popups on the internet, the ads will go away only after the user has acquired the latest product being hawked.
This revelation causes Gibson to break the law in order to quiet the voices in his head. Watching all this from a control room deep inside the Hope corporate headquarters is Val Kilmer. Here playing a sleazy man with more interest in the company’s bottom-line than the suffering of Gibson. It’s being sold as a costarring role but in reality Kilmer is onscreen for very little time and his delivery is flat and very matter of fact. This may have been an acting ‘choice’ or it’s evidence of Kilmer’s boredom in this type of straight-to-DVD fare. Gooding isn’t much help either. While typically solid in this type of film Gooding’s constant scowling here comes off as cold and his character is kind of obnoxious.
Luckily the clever script from Michael Hurst and slick direction by Ernie Barbarash propel the film along so rapidly most viewers wont have to lament the acting for too long. Both writer and director strike the right balance between futuristic sci-fi, satirical social commentary, and action film conventions. Infusing all three into a story that creates a rich enough world to encompass a follow-up film. Would you know it; the ending leaves the door open for the possibility.
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside