Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Scott Bakula, Joanna Going, Xander Berkeley, Brian Dennehy, Kris Kristofferson, C.C.H. Pounder, Judge Reinhold, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Anjul Nigam|
|Producer:||Dennis E. Doty, Howard Alston, Tom Clancy, Steve Pieczenik, Gil Cates, Peggy Griffin, Stephen Lofaro, Robert Z. Shapiro|
Here’s a speculative peek into the not-too-distant future. Set in the year 2005, it focuses on the use or misuse of the Internet and other technology and shows Organized Crime pitted against a new FBI agency called Netforce. Perhaps that’s not so farfetched; since this film was made, there have been several technological and legal changes including the President’s announcement in September 2001 of a new Cabinet-level agency of Home Security in response to international terrorists who communicate via the Internet.
In the opening scene, Netforce is getting ready to raid a Mob operation. First, agent Alex Michaels (Scott Bakula) and his boss Steve Day (Kris Kristofferson) must get a search warrant by electronic interface with a judge; they ask Her Honor to break normal procedure and delay posting the warrant on the Net lest the crooks be immediately tipped off. Even then, as soon as the gangsters’ HQ security is breached their computer starts deleting files automatically. The rest of the film runs in the same vein—a world that looks almost the same as ours, but has new technological advances and tweaks here and there.
There’s a certain amount of suspense because the plot is constructed as a “whodunit” or rather a “who’s-gonna-do-it.” We know that computer genius Will Stiles (Judge Reinhold) is dirty and is planning something nasty with his new Web Browser, but we’re not sure who all else is in on it with him.
There are several killings, but (in keeping the fact that this was originally an ABC miniseries) most of them are done off-camera or else “old-style,” with little or no blood. Likewise, the profanity is very scarce and mild. And there’s no sexual content (one scene of Michaels and his girlfriend alone, but he gets a beeper call to an emergency before anything can happen). The R rating makes no sense to me; maybe it was “requested” by the producers in order to make the video seem grittier. Another eye-catcher is that the film is sometimes called “Tom Clancy’s Netforce.” Depending on which authority is consulted, Clancy (the writer of “The Hunt for Red October” and its sequels) was either a contributing writer to this film or else only a producer (the opening credits list him only as a producer).
Bottom Line: The content is milder than we might expect, and the running time is a little long for the plot. There’s some interesting moralizing about how the Net could have been a means of bringing people together but instead became a conduit for lust, greed and crime. Of course the same could be said of other visual media (movies, TV, home video, video games etc.) that preceded it. In the use of any new technology, fallen human nature seems to become the lowest common denominator. For those interested in the subjects it explores, the film is worth a look.