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Film / Virtuosity

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"I'm a fifty terabyte, self-evolving, neural network, double back-flip off the high platform. I'm not a swan dive."
Sid 6.7

Virtuosity is a 1995 science fiction film directed by Brett Leonard. The movie tells of a new virtual reality training program for cops. SID 6.7 (Aussie import Russell Crowe), the villain program in charge of the sim, is mothballed after causing a brain overload in one of the playtesters, but the lead scientist Dr. Darrel Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella) refuses to quit. In revenge, he transplants SID into an android body and sets him loose in Los Angeles.

Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington), an ex-LAPD officer and one of the surviving testers, is reinstated in order to stop SID before he embarrasses the hell out of everyone. SID was created as an amalgam of hundreds of real-life murderers, including Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. But one of the ghost personalities in SID was also responsible for killing Barnes' wife, which adds spice to their deadly game.

The film was shot in and around Los Angeles.

The movie provides examples of:

  • Alien Blood: Apart from his brain, SID is silicon-based, causing him to squirt blue goo whenever he rebuilds himself.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Parker lost an arm to the bomb which killed his family, but it's replaced with a cybernetic one.
  • Appendage Assimilation: SID can regrow blown-off appendages with glass. It doesn't appear to be that pleasant for him.
  • Artistic License – Sports: The UFC event portrayed in the second act is very inaccurate.
    • There are two fights going on at the same time, something like a professional wrestling show rather than an MMA bout.
    • Michael Buffer makes announcements mid-fight while standing on a platform over the Octagon. In reality, Buffer's half-brother Bruce is the announcer of the UFC, and he makes announcements between bouts from inside the Octagon.
    • The entire audience is chanting "Kapow!" in time to a song during the fight, a complete artistic invention.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Barnes states that he's looking for SID's eyes to pick him out of a crowd. Then he sees a silhouette of SID and simply opens fire.
  • Ax-Crazy: SID has 183 criminals in his mind, so that's the result.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: From Al Capone and Mussolini, SID inherited a taste for fine tailoring.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Barnes has a beard and dreadlocks as a prisoner. He shaves them when he is reinstated to hunt down SID.
  • Bond One-Liner: The first test subject, Donovan, dies off-screen when SID electrocutes him and stuffs his body in a sushi display case.
    SID: He's chilling out.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Barnes manages to take 30+ shots at SID in the nightclub without reloading his standard-issue service pistol once.
  • Boxed Crook: Parker. He gets an Explosive Leash implanted for his trouble. He's let off the hook by Cochran just as Deane is about to execute him.
  • The Cameo:
    • Traci Lords cameos as a singer in the club SID 'visits'.
    • Michael Buffer and Ken Shamrock appear as themselves when Sid attends the UFC match.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Parker's artificial arm comes in handy at the climax of the film.
  • Condemned Contestant: Convicts are used to test the new (and inadvertently deadly) VR police training system. Barnes is an ex-cop who, in a break from the norm, is actually guilty of the crime he was imprisoned for.
  • Content Warnings: Delivered in pure Faux Affably Evil fashion by Sid as he begins his "Death TV" rampage.
    SID: Before we begin, a word to the parents of our younger viewers: The following programme contains scenes of violence, it will not be suitable for small children. The rest of you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen. [Points his Glock to hostages without turning to look at them] Don't. Fucking. Move.
  • Composite Character: Fifty terabytes is a lot of freaking memory, even today. Lindenmeyer could never program SID by himself, so he "grew" him in a vat of criminal algorithms.
  • The Dead Can Dance: Who knew Atilla the Hun could cut a rug? Well, pouring the souls of 183 homicidal maniacs into a computer got boring after awhile, so Lindenmeyer added in an orchestra director. And even androids can't resist the BeeGees!
  • Digital Abomination: SID 6.7 is effectively this as a Mind Hive amalgamation of 200 notorious criminal personalities assembled out of the minds of dozens of psychopaths, murderers and dictators, including the dead terrorist Matthew Grimes. Lindenmeyer, SID 6.7's creator, unleashes him to the world to cause chaos and he eventually gets downloaded into a self-regenerating nanomachine android body. As such, he immediately goes on a killing spree, murdering in the style of assorted killers (i.e. writing "death to the pigs" in blood like Charles Manson). Best demonstrated [[here]].
  • Disappeared Dad: Madison appears to be a single mother, whether divorced or simply never married is unknown, as her daughter's father is not mentioned or shown in the film.
  • Emoticon: Barnes locates SID in the training program through the clue left on the side of a building: the emoticon of a smiley face. Parker has to explain what they are.
  • Expy: SID 6.7 shares some traits with Horace Pinker from Shocker, and arguably an early prototype for Russell Crowe's later role as Edward Hyde.
  • Everything Is Online: How SID seems to know so much about Parker, Madison, etc.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: In addition to the real-world gangsters and dictators who inspired SID 6.7, there appear to be some fictional baddies, like Matthew Grimes, the terrorist who blew up Parker's family.
  • Faux Affably Evil: No matter how depraved his actions get, SID never loses his cheery demeanor or impeccable manners and seems like someone who'd be fun to be around were he not a monstrous killer:
    SID: Just because I'm carrying around the joy of killing your family inside me doesn't mean we can't be friends.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Billy is pretty much forgotten about by Parker after Lindenmeyer clubs him to death rather brutally. Arguably a Justified Trope, as there’s no time to mourn afterward, what with Karin Carter hooked up to a bomb and all...
  • Fun with Acronyms: A Blink-and-You-Miss-It example. As Parker and Donovan search for SID in the sim, SID himself appears as a news anchor virtual reality head talking about himself, warning the listeners about the killer and describing him as "Sadistic, Intelligent, and Dangerous."
  • Gangsta Style: Sid holds his pistol sideways when gunning down cops at the dance club.
  • Ghost in the Machine: As he makes small talk with Barnes, SID seems to suggest that bomber Matthew Grimes ranked low in the hierarchy of Lindenmeyer's data. (Carter explains that SID's mind is like a war zone, with 183 psychopaths wrestling for control at any given time.) However, seeing Barnes again causes the Grimes personality to have a greater degree of influence. Hence SID's last scheme: mother-daughter hostage team with a time bomb attached.
  • Gone Horribly Right: SID 6.7 was intended to essentially be the ultimate criminal, the idea being that if cops could catch him in the simulation, catching any real-life criminal would be easy. Unfortunately, SID figures out how to first start killing people inside the simulation... and then escapes into the real world.
  • Groin Attack: Parker does this—twice—to the racist white inmate who tried to kill him when he got back from being a guinea pig.
  • The Heavy: Lindenmeyer is the Big Bad, but it's SID who does most of the dirty work.
  • I Have Your Wife:
    • Matthew Grimes kidnapped Barnes's wife and daughter, who ended up killed by a bomb he set.
    • Near the end, SID kidnaps Dr. Carter's young daughter Karin.
  • Inside a Computer System: Where the movie starts.
  • Jack the Ripoff: SID 6.7's personality is an amalgamation of 200 notorious criminal personalities. So, when he gets a physical body, he starts murdering in the style of assorted killers (i.e. writing "death to the pigs" in blood like Charles Manson).
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Sheila 3.2, a virtual reality sex doll whose function is to deduce your psycho-sexual needs and fulfill them. Lindenmeyer explains to Clyde: "Sheila 3.2 is collecting information from 136 aspects of your physiology. Your heart rate, pupil dilation, vocal intonation, syntax..." Lindenmeyer says she's also very skilled at chess.
  • Large Ham: Russell Crowe had so much fuuuun with this movie. Given that his character is basically the robot Joker, it was probably the right way to play it.
  • Laughably Evil: SID is a murderous and sadistic A.I., but boy is he fun to watch at times.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: SID 6.7 uses a roomful of hostages at a dance club as a source of a variety of screams, which he then remixes with the club's equipment for his enjoyment. As one can probably tell from this scene alone, this guy is a complete psycho.
  • Mad Scientist: Lindenmeyer, SID 6.7's creator who unleashed him to the world to cause chaos.
  • Magic Countdown: Double subverted with the last bomb... which countdowns normally, until Barnes tries anything... at which point it speeds up. Desperate, Barnes uses wiring in his prosthetic arm to try and foul it up... which only makes it countdown faster... and then glitch up, "de-activating" the bomb.
  • Mind Hive: SID 6.7 is a virtual program who eventually gets downloaded into a self-regenerating android body. He's assembled out of the minds of dozens of psychopaths, murderers and dictators, including the dead terrorist Matthew Grimes, Barnes's previous nemesis. Grimes is repeatedly brought to the surface when SID comes face-to-face with Barnes and influences SID's desire to gain world notoriety.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: SID 6.7 is created from the personalities of 183 criminals. And an orchestra director.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: SID 6.7'S genesis. Then it's Russell Crowe.
  • SID takes over a TV studio and announces "Death TV," where the viewers get to vote by telephone on which member(s) of the studio audience he kills and how he does it.
    SID 6.7: All you have to do, sweet viewers, is ask! So, what do you want? Strangulation? Mutilation? Cannibalism? Gunshots? Stabbings? I'll slice, I'll dice, I'll julienne! How about hanging... by the testicles?
  • Nanomachines: What SID is made up of in the real world.
  • Neck Snap: When one guy in the TV shop insists on watching the fighting tournament, SID 6.7 twists his neck around.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • SID does a version of this speech over the radio to Barnes and Dr. Carter while being chased.
    SID 6.7: I've been thinking, Parker. We have so much in common psychologically. Wouldn't you agree, Dr. Carter? We have such a history together. We'd make a great team. A dynamic duo. Who else touches the world with synthetic hands? Who else has been locked out of the real world and is now just learning to free? Who else do you know that's a multiple murderer... just like you?
    • He also tries to do a version of this speech to the entire human race.
      SID 6.7: What I am is not my fault. It's not even my choice. I came to be because of what YOU are. Face it, folks—to kill is in your nature!
  • Novelization: By Terry Bisson.
  • Number of the Beast: SID 6.7's version number is supposedly an oblique reference to 666. It's 6.66 rounded to one decimal place.
  • One-Winged Angel: SID tries to do this near the end. Unfortunately for him, Transformation Is Not A Free Action after all.
  • Police Are Useless: Barnes is arrested for the shooting death of the hostage at the train station, even though any competent investigator would see that the bullet wounds came from behind, showing that she was shot at the back by SID.
  • Product Placement: The action extends to an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. Oddly, the promotion is portrayed in an extremely inaccurate manner, as the UFC was underground at the time.
  • Reality Warper: When SID 6.7 realizes he is back in VR, he screams "YOU'RE IN MY WORLD NOW!!!" and twists the building around in an attempt to kill Barnes.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: How Parker ended up in jail; it's revealed in flashbacks that, after Matthew Grimes killed Parker's family, Parker tracked Grimes down, slaughtering him and his henchmen. Unfortunately, Grimes was doing an interview with a two-person news crew so that he could gloat over how cool he was, and after Parker got done killing the dirty bastard, he killed the news team by accident, turning and firing on them, thinking they were just more of Grimes' mooks.
  • Robot Girl: Sheila 3.2, Virtual reality sex doll, whose sole function is to deduce your psychosexual needs, and fulfill them: "Sheila 3.2 is collecting information from 136 aspects of your physiology. Your heart rate, pupil dilation, vocal intonation, syntax..." She was scheduled for download to a super strong regenerative body, capable of shape-shifting into the IA virtual avatar. Subverted because the male IA SID is the one who ends up being downloaded.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: SID is able to briefly shift his face and voice to look like Matthew Grimes, the terrorist who killed Barnes' family. SID explains that seeing Barnes brings Grimes, out of all 183 criminals, "oozing to the surface."
  • Shout-Out: At one point, SID says to someone "love the suit."
  • Silicon-Based Life: SID's body. He uses glass to regenerate himself whenever he's injured.
  • Slices, Dices, and Makes Julienne Fries: Included in the 'parental advisory' which preceded SID's city-wide broadcast.
  • This Is Reality: SID shooting the breeze with Barnes over his dead loved ones. "Still dead, huh? That's reality for you: no saving, no resetting."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Lindenmeyer, the creator of SID 6.7, fools Clyde into introducing him into the real world. Guess who kills the sucker?
    • The news crew that went to interview a psychotic bomber in his hideout, then rushed toward an injured man with a machine gun in an apparent attempt to get questions answered.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Glass for SID 6.7, which he uses to regenerate lost body parts. Goes to ridiculous extremes when he starts eating shards of broken windshield like Halloween candy.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Only set in 1999.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Shocker, as both films involved a electronic tech-based Serial Killer causing mayhem both in the digital screen world and the real world and a protagonist named Parker (which is the forename in this film instead of surname in the other) pursues to put a stop to him. Both films had a fight between the villain and the hero on top of broadcasting tower and culminated in the final showdown in the digital world.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Grimes kidnapped Barnes' wife and daughter, and they ended up killed by his bomb.
    • SID kidnaps Dr. Carter's daughter and has her placed near a time bomb.
  • You Are Number 6: Each of Lindenmeyer's creations are in the beta phase. "Sushi Chef" and "Geisha Girl" have their own releases, also.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Not a straight example; the system is designed to train cops in combat situations, similar to the US Army's Real Life Force XXI program. The problem is that different people worked on different parts of the system and didn't understand how Lindenmeyer's maniacal AI could abuse it. The developers got almost all the bases covered; they programmed in non-lethal simulations of being shot, bludgeoned and even bitten, but when SID decided to try electrocuting someone, the poor chump's brain overloaded.
    SID 6.7: Killing for real... It was a real rush.
    • Near the end of the film SID tries a different method on Parker after he manages to gain control of the simulation: He subjects Parker to a rapid-fire series of intense surreal sensory input in an attempt to overload his brain and potentially induce heart failure.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Matthew Grimes was a domestic terrorist who zeroed in on Barnes as a scapegoat for The Man.