After losing his wife in a horrific car accident, Luke Gibson (Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr., Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jerry Maguire, 1996) wakes up in the hospital to find his once idyllic life on the brink of destruction. Implanted with a lethal microchip and monitored closely by a Hope Industries executive (Val Kilmer), Gibson is plagued by strange visions and haunted by a past he cannot remember. If he wants to survive, his only chance lies with a group of renegade hackers who may be the only ones who know how to stop the dangerous corporation before it's too late. Also starring Michael Ironside (Terminator Salvation).
You have to wonder- what would the world be like post-economic depression? Will corporations and big businesses continue to control the world’s money? Or will there be a civil uprising powerful enough to topple the dominoes of these conglomerates and meglomerates?
Ernie Barnabash’s (director of the cult sci-fi classic "Cube") latest dystopian sci-fi thriller "Hardwired" has already won half the battle by arriving at such a prescient timing- after all, all classic sci-fi movies have flirted at the cusp of possibility, daring us to imagine what the future would look like if some societal trend continued to manifest itself. That tendency is one of greed, or rather unbridled greed, which left without proper checks and balances has inevitably precipitated today’s financial crisis.
If that greed were left unfettered, corporations like Hope Industries would soon prey on the poor and lowly, using them as test subjects in controversial experiments in the advancement of wealth. One such ordinary man is Cuba Gooding Jr’s Luke Gibson, who loses his pregnant wife in a horrific car accident and wakes up in the hospital realising he has no memory of the past. He’s part of a project named Project 660, an attempt by Hope to implant a computer chip to manipulate people’s minds.
How Hope gets to Luke is interesting- the corporation subverts the medical system by terminating his life insurance and offering his relatives a new lease of life by proposing a new procedure that may just save his life. Will our medical system one day only treat those whom they think can afford it and leave the rest to die? It’s a little far-fetched, but the importance of health insurance as it is now should already raise some alarm bells.
The rest of the movie is standard action fare, as Luke is rescued by a team of computer hackers led by Hal (Michael Ironside) and joins their fight to claim back his life as well as the hundreds out there taken 'hostage' by Hope. Thankfully, Barnabash keeps the pace of the movie brisk, so despite the lack of surprises in Mike Hurst’s screenplay, there’s enough to sustain one’s interest throughout.
Credit should also be given to Cuba Gooding Jr, the Oscar-winner from "Jerry Maguire" who has recently been content carving his name in the direct to DVD market. Although the film doesn’t give his character much to do except act confused and pained, Cuba gives his best in an earnest performance that turns out unexpectedly touching. Ditto for the rest of the supporting cast, who treat the material with much more respect than what one would expect from this low-budget effort.
But a large part of it is because "Hardwired" actually deserves that respect. Despite its tacky poster, and sometimes cheesy-looking special effects, it is a more than decent sci-fi effort that is much more entertaining than it seems. And thanks to its social commentary about the state of affairs in the world now, it manages to even be smarter than it looks. Indeed, it should come as a great compliment that this is one direct to video, low-budget effort you don’t have to switch your brains off to enjoy.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Connecting the Circuits Making-of Featurette: This 15-min behind the scenes look at the film reveals the surprising level of detail that went into making this movie- considering how it was never meant to be a theatrical release. You’d also be pleasantly amazed at how Cuba Gooding Jr. really believed in the merits of this project.
This Code 3 DVD boasts an excellent visual transfer. Images look sharp and colours are distinct. The Dolby 5.1 audio is also great and comes alive with ambient sounds and powerful surround action.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 13 December 2009