THE NET (1995) 

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Sandra Bullock
Jeremy Northam
Dennis Miller
Diane Baker
Wendy Gazelle
Ken Howard
Ray McKinnon
Daniel Schorr
L. Scott Caldwell
Robert Gossett

Irwin Winkler



Time: 114 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Thriller

Bullock's charm, integrity and intelligence are the only things that keep this laughable, high-tech thriller even remotely entertaining. Released before the Internet became the stodgy, mass-marketing tool it is today, the film attempts to capitalize on the still prevalent fear that hackers can and will destroy your life through your desktop. While identity theft is a scam as old as time, people seem to believe it's a brand new threat thanks to cyberspace. THE NET takes this fear and makes it an extreme reality for our lovely leading lady. Bullock plays a reclusive computer geek who accidently becomes involved in a high-level conspiracy to control the government (yes, that again) that not only destroys her world, but almost takes her life as well.

Angela Bennett is a talented computer programmer and debugger whose entire life consists of her work and taking care of her invalid mother. She has no friends in the real world, preferring to live her life in cyberspace. However, her talent gets her into big trouble when an old friend sends her a disk with a program on it that's more than a little weird. What's supposed to be a simple website becomes a portal into high-level, secret government documents with a click of the mouse. Though intrigued, she refuses to put off her vacation and leaves for the airport with the disk in tow. It doesn't take long for the perfect day of sun, fun and romance to turn into a nightmare of life-threatening proportions. It seems Jack Devlin's (Northam) designs for her were nothing personal, merely a means of acquiring the troublesome disk.

Unfortunately, for him, Angela proves more resourceful and dangerous than he gave her credit for. Not ready to die just yet, she gives him a run for his money. However, he has friends in high places who make sure Angela's life is turned into a living hell. They change her identity into that of a common criminal, leaving her with no money, no home and no one to turn to. All they want is the disk. If she gives it back, she can regain her life. It goes without saying that she doesn't trust Devlin to keep his word, especially since he's killed everyone who's come in contact with the program or has tried to help her. Using the only resource available to her, her brain, she escapes one bad situation after another to eventually gain the upper hand and turn the tide against Jack and his flunkies.

"You know the story. I thought I was lonely, and he forgot he was married."

Her efforts are far from believable, but at least she has the smarts and physicality to keep the story from completely derailing. In fact, while the film is focused on her dealing with the theft of her identity, it's pretty interesting. It's the conspiracy angle that never quite gels properly. It's half-heartedly plotted for maximum thrills with a minimum of complexity. Bullock makes you care for her character, despite the absurd situations she finds herself in. Her constant effort to stay one step ahead of her pursuers should elicit suspense, yet all it does is make one tired and grateful you're not in her shoes. The film loses its' unique flavor when it turns to the physical chase. I guess they figured the audience would get bored watching people type at a keyboard. In the end, this is a Bullock vehicle that escapes utter ridiculousness because of her earnest and intelligent performance. She is a convincing and engaging heroine who's made worse flicks, but should hold out for better.

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