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Cyberjack (Virtual Assassin)
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by Jack Sommersby

"'God will be lucky if I even return his phone calls.'"
3 stars

One of those things you find in a bargain-basement VHS bin worth shelling out a buck or buck-and-a-half for.

Decently helmed by debut-director Robert Lee, the sci-fi/action flick Virtual Assassin is chock-full of hooey and a clunky leading man yet possesses just enough in the way of bounce and efficiency to make it passable for a boring Sunday-afternoon remedy. What we have here is Michael Dudikoff playing a cop-turned-janitor after losing his partner in a standoff with psycho Brion James three year prior; he's a debt-ridden gambler reduced to slinging trash in a high-rise building of high-tech computer scientists who've developed a helpful virus that will protect all computers from illegal intrusion. Coincidentally, James and his fellow terrorists take over the building with the goal of infecting James with this breakthrough to transform him into a biologically-augmented virus capable of creating "instantaneous global chaos." With that, lone-wolf Dudikoff knocking off the villains one by one and the police outside not knowing if he's to be trusted, what we have here is a thinly-veiled cinematic hodgepodge of Die Hard, Under Siege and The Lawnmower Man. But what's surprising is that the filmmakers have aptly developed some of the material and had a good deal of fun with it that in turn infectiously spreads to an undemanding audience tired of bottom-basement direct-to-video endeavors that would've been better left in the closet. When the hero takes to moving around in the airshafts, his heat signature shows up on a computer, alerting the baddies to his whereabouts; when he needs to hide, he sits down in the chair of a dead security guard whose convincing holographic image makes like he's still alive; while trying to reach safety an armed mobile police robot confuses him with the villains and tries to eliminate him; and even when trapped in an elevator, he's still listening to a ballgame on his radio in light of a massive bet he's got riding on it. If there's a boring moment anywhere in this, I didn't spot it. Lee isn't a virtuoso or anything of the like, but he puts some care into the staging, keeps things assuredly moving, and gives even the supporting players chances to shine, with veteran bad-guy portrayer James the standout. Wearing a horrendous spiked-blonde fright wig, brighter-than-bright blue contacts, and threatening to give one of the hostages "a .45-caliber sinus infection," he's lurid yet amusingly incorrigible. (Oddly enough, he sounds a lot like John Lithgow.) As for Dudikoff, he's got screen presence but not a whole lot of style and takes to wide-eyed emoting too much in too many close-ups, but he's physically convincing, all the same, even if not exactly the gamest hero ever to grace the silver screen. (When stone-faced, granitic Jan-Michael Vincent seems like a better alternative, something's most definitely amiss.) Overall, you could do a lot better than Virtual Asassin, believe me, but its OK action, humor and f/x (quite an accomplishment, this, given the low budget) help it just over that worthwhile-dollar-rental wall.

Note: Even though the hero is supposed to be financially-strapped, he manages to sport the kind of expensive haircut John Edwards is famous for.

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originally posted: 06/23/09 05:40:26
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User Comments

8/21/10 Sugarfoot This walks the line between awful and amusing. Action is decent for budget though. 3 stars
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  19-Sep-1995 (R)

  N/A (18)

  N/A (M)

Directed by
  Robert Lee

Written by
  Eric Poppen

  Michael Dudikoff
  Suki Kaiser
  Brion James
  Jon Cuthbert

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