A futuristic actioner set in a world where computer-generated killers can come to life, Virtuosity exhibits the perils of putting technology ahead of virtues like emotion and character. Pic offers only the evanescent thrills of a videogame, despite a profusion of flashy effects and high-velocity pacing.
Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington), an ex-cop now doing prison time for an act of revenge, is taking part in a Virtual Reality simulation designed to train police officers for violent situations. He returns to the slammer only to be thrust into a fight with a white-supremacist convict. Barnes’ real nemesis, it turns out, is the VR fabrication he chased in the first scene. Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe) has been designed by computer whiz Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella) to combine the least savory character traits of Hitler, Manson and 181 other psychopath poster boys, including the serial killer who offed Barnes’ family.
Predictably enough, Sid 6.7 escapes into the real world, in a cyber-body that makes him virtually immune to conventional modes of extermination, and Barnes is chosen to hunt him down with the assistance of police psychologist Madison Carter (Kelly Lynch).
What follows is a tautly mounted but relentlessly conventional chase through LA locales that include a futuristic nightclub (the year is 1999), a wrestling arena and a shopping mall. Like too many other such movies, pic climaxes with a battle atop a tall building. Helmer Brett Leonard’s handling is competent but undistinctive.