Virtuosity (Blu-ray Review)

virtuosity-bluray-coverIt is nice to see Warner Brothers taking the rights and reaching into the Paramount vault and pulling out a few titles at a time in an effort to convert their library to high definition. That said, that also means taking films that are enjoyed by some, but mostly looked at poorly by others. Virtuosity is not a great film. It is not terrible, as that is near impossible for Denzel Washington to accomplish (save for John Q), but it is a film that shows its age in the worst of ways, while also offering little value as a narrative. With all of that in mind, I was happy to revisit the first film that brought Washington and Russell Crowe together, flaws and all.





The film is set in a not too distant future, where virtual reality has become deadly. A virtual being known as SID 6.7 (Crowe) is the composite of 200 personalities of notorious killers and he has found his way to enter into the real world. The only one that can stop him is Parker Barnes (Washington), a former LA cop who is apparently the man qualified to stop SID. As SID rains destruction on innocent civilians throughout the city, Barnes does what he can to catch him.

Fittingly enough, this film is from director Brett Leonard, who explored this concept in his earlier film The Lawnmower Man. While neither film is exactly regarded as a classic, Virtuosity sits lower for ascribing itself to the many conventions of a 90s action film, without having enough in the way of a truly unique concept of clever handle on its key ideas. Basically, this is a film that hits all the clichés and misses the mark on utilizing the visual effects that are ideally supposed to dazzle properly.

The only things that could save Virtuosity are its performances, but that is a mixed bag. Washington is Washington here. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but coming off of many fine performances, seeing this early turn for him as a conventional action hero is not enough to propel this film in the best of ways. Sure he has that confidence and swagger, complete with a backstory that is supposed to inspire sympathy, but this film does few favors for the man.


Meanwhile, Russell Crowe is having a ball in the role of SID. This is early Crowe and he seems to be happy to sink his teeth into a performance that allows him to go over-the-top. While his motives and the nature of the story lack much to really suggest any sort of interesting riff on society or provide anything that pushes this character to cult favorite status, it is good enough to see the actor embrace the wild nature of a killer virtual character.

The other thing is the visual effects. While I am not one to beat down films that are a product of their time, Virtuosity is a film that sits in that spot between the time when CG and practical effects were being used interchangeably, but the quality of CG was still a ways off, when it comes to the look of specific objects and people. For a film like this, which allows SID to take bullets and instantly heal himself, the film is no Terminator 2, which is one of the clear influences and a film that handles some of these ideas a whole lot better.

Virtuosity is no classic and it actually falls into the category of worst films for both Washington and Crowe. It is not terrible, as there are some neat touches and the presence of these two, which allows for some understanding and credit, but the film does come up lacking. This is not a film that is need of seeking out, but if you need a reminder of what things were like as far as average 90s sci-fi, this is a pretty easy example.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: To its credit, Virtuosity is a good-looking film, when not focused on the CG elements. The transfer does proper justice to allow for a clear look at a lot of the details going into the production design. This is especially important, given the number of computer stations and interesting sets that do their best to suggest a future society. It is a film from 20 years ago, so it shows its age a bit, but the sharp detail is balanced nicely against the familiar level of grain one should suspect.

Depth: Given the nature of the film’s story, feel free to enjoy the dimensionality witnessed, whether it is depicting the real or virtual world.

Black Levels: Black levels impress quite a bit, given the numerous nighttime and indoor sequences.

Color Reproduction: There is a good amount of color in this release which moves from over-the-top CG visuals to the nice suits Crowe’s character sports throughout the feature.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures are strong; everyone comes through with a solid level of detail.

Noise/Artifacts: Given the film’s age, while not as amazing a recent release, this is more than commendable, as far as old transfers go.




Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish

Dynamics: There is a lot to admire in this audio mix, which relies heavily on various effects to get across the virtual reality element, along with all the chatter between the characters. All kinds of audio elements come into play here.

Low Frequency Extension: Great use of the LFE Channel for the big time action sequences and some other key scenes.

Surround Sound Presentation: The balance is very well-handled, which is great for a film that has many aspects when it comes to the sound.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.







I am sure there are those out there who find enjoyment in Virtuosity, most likely as a guilty pleasure. I cannot say I was as pleased with this revisit to the film, but it has some aspects worth praising, namely Crowe’s performance. Regardless, the film looks and sounds very good on Blu-ray, but lacks any sort of extra feature that could have been interesting to see. Rent it if you like.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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