Story: Lt. Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) used to be a police officer, but now he’s in lockdown, though he still lends a hand to his former law enforcement brethren. A virtual reality training simulator has been developed to fine tune the police response, one which allows the cops to match wits with the perfect criminal. Created from the data of over one hundred and fifty serial killers and other violent criminals, Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe) was designed to test the skills of the police, but the tech needs to be tested before it can be implemented. That’s where Barnes comes in, as he enters the simulation to test it and allow the cops to watch and learn, but his latest encounter took a tragic turn. Sid was able to bend the rules of the simulation and murder one of the test subjects in real life, while he was hooked up to the simulation. The incident leads to the program being shut down, but Sid isn’t going down without a fight…

Entertainment Value: This is a fun one, a blend of action and sci-fi that gives us Denzel Washington going head to head with a very dialed up Russell Crowe. The story here is interesting, with the serial hybrid artificial intelligence on the loose, while there are good twists and turns throughout. Virtuosity doesn’t take itself seriously all the time, with plenty of dark humor and even one liners woven in, but it does keep the narrative on track. As is the case with many of this film’s peers, the visual effects can be quite primitive and even humorous at times, with some questionable CGI. I appreciate that the effects crew just went for it here, even if the end result is less than effective. Another memorable element is the use of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the fights shown don’t resemble the UFC at all, instead its like some kind of weird futuristic combat sport. There’s action here, some sci-fi, some comedy, even some light thriller elements, but despite the mixed cocktail that entails, Virtuosity feels cohesive and smooth, not disjointed in the least. I always have a good time with this one, as it is just wild enough to stand out, but covers the basics as well, so it earns a high recommendation.

Denzel Washington is good here, bringing his usual skills to this offbeat movie and grounding it, giving Virtuosity a steady rudder throughout some of the chaos. Washington takes the material seriously and puts in work, while showing his usual level of charm and warmth as well. If this role went to an actor who wouldn’t have taken such care, the entire movie could have suffered, if not collapsed. This kind of turn really enhances the entire movie, but to be honest, Denzel is sometimes outshone here, as Russell Crowe devours every scene he is in. You can tell Crowe relishes playing this kind of psychotic, charismatic villain, as he really goes for broke and dials his performance way up. This approach yields a lot of entertainment, as his antics are so fun to watch and even when he really goes over the top, there is still a deadly menace to his effort. I think he truly shines and the glee he shows in bringing Sid to life is immense fun and adds a lot to the movie. The cast also includes Louise Fletcher, Kelly Lynch, William Fichtner, Costas Mandylor, Kevin J. O’Connor, William Forsythe, Traci Lords, and Kaley Cuoco.

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