Plot: Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) is consumed by his work in the virtual reality field, driven to break through and achieve unprecedented results. His work seeks to use virtual reality to enhance the mental functions of his subjects, improve their brain power and cognitive skills. The current experiment involves a chimp and the results are impressive, but his work is being led in directions he disapproves of. A government funded lab is home to his research and while Angelo sees the big picture potential, his bosses just see a possible new weapon. When they overload the aggression levels of the chimp, goes on a rampage and escapes the lab. The incident ends with the lab’s guards putting the chimp down and that in turn leads to Angelo leaving the lab, convinced he can pursue his ideas on his own. His plan involves Jobe (Jeff Fahey), a local simpleton who is gentle and kind, but is taken advantage of and bullied. But will Angelo’s research lead to a better life for Jobe or result in unexpected consequences?
Entertainment Value: This review is based on the director’s cut of the movie, though I have of course viewed the theatrical version before. The story here is all about what happens when a researcher turns a lawn mowing simpleton into an omnipotent force of nature. Jeff Fahey is fun to watch as Jobe, especially the transition period where he turns from one extreme to another. Pierce Brosnan is good here too, given a chance to shine in a subtle role, instead of an action hero or seduction machine. But Fahey is the stand out and his performance as Jobe is what drives The Lawnmower Man, since the shift in character is such a defining element here. While more sci/fi than horror, the movie does veer into that realm a little once Jobe starts to gain power. I’d still call it more of a sci/fi thriller than horror, but fans of both genres should be at home here. The hilariously dated virtual reality graphics are a lot of fun and while archaic now, some of the visuals remain memorable. The pace is a little slow at times and the story gets a touch wonky, but this is still a fun, interesting movie. If you’re a fan of sci/fi with a little horror slant or just love virtual reality, check it out.
A couple brief topless scenes once Jobe turns into a sexual dynamo, but hey, better than no breasts at all, right? Not much blood, just some minor red stuff in gun shot wounds and little else. There’s more violence, but the bloodshed is minimal. In terms of dialogue, Jobe has some fun lines once he transcends above mankind. But the tone here is quite serious, so the lines never go over the top, while the writing is solid enough to avoid unintentional humor. So the writing is good, just not in the ways that produce outrageous lines and moments. Fahey is a lot of fun here though, so even mundane lines get a minor boost in that regard. The premise is a little out there and the dated virtual reality content is a lot of fun, but overall this one doesn’t go for the craziness much. But there are some wacky moments and some of the virtual reality inspired effects are just outlandish. Jobe summons virtual fire in the real world, uses telekinesis to go on a mower rampage, and turns guys into weird balls. So not all that insane, but a few points worth of crazy here.
Overall Insanity: 3/10