Director: Ernie Barbarash
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr, Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside, Tatiana Maslany, Juan Riedinger, Eric Bieker
Plot: Luke Gibson (Gooding Jr.) wakes up from a car crash with a device in his head, keeping him alive. A device controlled by a powerful and dangerous business.
I really wanted to like Hardwired. I really did. It opens with a clear powerful message and the beginnings of a very interesting premise (even if it does cling to the amnesia plotline, like too many movies of that decade did). It is set in the near future and Advertising companies have more power than the governments. Cue a montage of McDonalds and Pepsi logos built into the Seven Wonders of the World and even the moon. Trying to take this power to the next level, Hope Industries build a computer built into your brain that grants the wearer the power of accessing the internet with their thoughts, but comes with the cost of having advertisements fired into your brains, that do not quit until you buy the products being sold. The sad irony is that this version of the future isn’t as ridiculous as you would like it to be. Hope Industries need to build the device first and Luke Gibson finds himself, caught up in the business’s plans as a test subject, his only saving grace being a group of hackers that have the power to help him take down the industry.
It’s a good idea and there are certain things about this movie that really work. For example, you can imagine an actor like Jean-Claude Van Damme taking it and turning the movie into a suitable Friday night action. It is the sort of film that will never take the world on fire, but has enough thrills and fight scenes to make it work. In a way, not casting your average action B Movie star accidentally raises the bar too high, and our expectations are put out of reach for the clunky script and lack of budget. Like I said, it isn’t a complete failure with a few good twists and a fairly enjoyable premise. The cynical depiction of corporations becoming superpowers is something you want to see explored. There are also a few good turns by the supporting actors. Michael Ironside is the sort of actor who can make the most out of very little, so when he is asked to deliver exposition, it actually works better than it should be, with the actor chewing the scenery effectively. Tatiana Maslany also deserves credit for her character, although anyone that has seen Orphan Black knows she is capable of much more than her paper thin character. Little details like that make it almost turn the corner when it comes to that fine balance between success and failure.
Sadly, the B Movie trademarks get in the way too much. A Sci-Fi on a low budget rarely works and Hardwired sets its vision too big. Set-pieces aren’t explosive enough and the ideas that must have looked good on paper, look fairly tacky when put into practice. Characters aren’t really characters, but cardboard cut-outs meant to get the story moving, rather than make us feel anything for. Like I said, Ironside and Maslany come out the other side intact, but Cuba Gooding Jr. is given so little to work with, you feel sorry for him. There is no depth to his reluctant hero figure. He does a lot of clutching his head and frantic looks, because that is all the director can really give him. The amnesia plotline explains his lack of character slightly, but more could have been done. This is another reason why casting someone like Van Damme might have worked; we wouldn’t have expected much more. Other B Movie problems are Val Kilmer’s bad guy being reduced to a face on a TV screen for a lot of the time and using certain story techniques from the Matrix whenever the writers run out of ideas. You might get a few thrills from Hardwired, but nothing lasting.
Final Verdict: It is a good idea, but the writing is a little too weak to hit home. Other budget problems get in the way, which is a shame because in places, Hardwired looks quite promising.