MAY 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 5


FEATURES | The Matrix

ALSO | The Phantom Menace Review
ALSO | Star Wars Saga Returns

LAST | Analyze This
LAST | Tribute to Stanley Kubrick


Short Takes
Grading from A-F

I was lucky enough to see this wonderful film seven months ago when it was first released in England. Now, it holds the title as the top grossing movie in English history and deservedly so. A British Pulp Fiction, the story follows a twisted plot of drugs, robbery, hit men and unpaid gambling debts all tied together perfectly by a pair of antique rifles. The action scenes are vivid and exciting. The dialogue, although slightly difficult to understand (there are subtitles in one scene) is extremely witty and pointed. Like Pulp Fiction the ending brings together many seemingly unrelated plot devices into a tight bundle of irony and cheekiness.

For what on the surface seems contrite and overdone, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Forgive the writers for taking the easy way out in may scenes and enjoy the characters' chemistry and underlying current of teenage anxiety. Much of the film plays out by the Hollywood blueprint for romance, but there are enough twists and quirkyness to even out the balance.

- Kevin Ridolfi
Buy "The Matrix Soundtrack" at CDNOW.COM

Featuring the music of:
Ministry, Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Rage Against the Machine, among others.

  The Matrix

Rating: A
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne, Joe Pantoliano. Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. Rated R. Running Time: 144 minutes.


"The Matrix" is the latest offering from Keanu Reeves, who is generally not the mark of quality in today's films. The trailer for "The Matrix" shows Reeves uttering a very Bill & Ted-esque "Whoa..." which may steer millions of potential Matrix patrons directly towards "The Out-of-Towners". Despite these potential obstacles, "The Matrix" is the most intelligent film of this year. It is visually engaging, sports an incredible soundtrack, and treats viewers to a complex plot that may leave them analyzing it for the rest of the week.

Andy and Larry Wachowski, who also directed "Bound" with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, directed "The Matrix". The Wachowski's have created a well-developed, plot-driven science fiction film with "The Matrix". Recent sci-fi productions from other film studios ("Wing Commander", "Starship Troopers" and "Event Horizon" for example) were so bad even Roger Corman would ask for his $8.00 back, but "The Matrix" delivers intelligence, action, and style in spades. The Wachowski's may become to action films what Joel and Ethan Coen are to offbeat comedies and dramas. They also deserve credit for delivering an entertaining science fiction film six weeks before "The Phantom Menace", preventing "The Matrix" from suffering the same fate as 1982's "Blade Runner" in the wake of "E.T.".

The best element of the film is the complex plot. "The Matrix" is best seen without knowing too much about the story, and film reviewers who reveal great surprises in good films deserve death - or at least some form of torture. The story centers around our reality, both perceived and actual. "The Matrix" also challenges our overall purpose as a race of human beings, while at the same time liberating plot-points from the New Testament. The backdrop for the story constantly changes, but never loses the audience. Recent science fiction films have been an excuse for blowing up stuff with lasers instead of grenades, or showing naked people in space, or both of those events combined. Instead, "The Matrix" causes the audience to talk afterwards in the parking lot about what the hell just happened in the film.

Reeves plays Neo, a burned out computer software engineer who moonlights as a computer hacker. At a rave party he meets Trinity (played by the stunning Carrie-Anne Moss), another hacker who wants to introduce him to Morpheous, a rather revered hacker in the hacker community. A large benefit associated with Matrix is that it is not just about hackers, like that bad 1995 movie, "Hackers". (Moss spends a lot of the film in a leather body suit, which to this reviewer is the female equivalent of a tuxedo. As long as you have it on the right way, it is really hard to look bad in one.) Neo arrives late to work the next day (which one might expect if Keanu Reeves was your employee, had to put on a suit and work in a cubicle) and things for him get considerably worse after that.

It's easy to bash Keanu Reeves (thanks to two "Bill & Ted's", "Bram Stoker's Dracula", "Johnny Mnemonic", "Parenthood", and "Point Break"), but he carries this movie quite well. He's believable as one can be with a story this complex. Aside from Johnny Depp, it is hard to consider anyone else in the role of Neo who could play it with this level of conviction. This film is not "Johnny Mnemonic II", thank God.

Lawrence Fishburne, a talent often wasted by Hollywood, plays Morpheous and shines in this film. Fishburne resembles Gene Hackman in terms of his talent and career choices. He's a talented actor, but if you paid him enough he'd appear in "Porky's VII". Thankfully, Matrix's rich storyline and the depth of character in Morpheous prove Fishburne's talent to a mainstream audience.

Joe Pantoliano, who's greatest character to date is still Guido the Killer Pimp from "Risky Business", plays Cypher, a friend of Morpheous. Cypher is, of course, a sci-fi-enhanced version of Guido the Killer Pimp. How this guy gets regular work is a mystery. Thankfully his screen time is limited.

"The Matrix'" stunning cinematography fluctuates between a grimy city in present-day 1999 (one assumes New York given the evil elements that transpire in this location) and the various beautiful and disturbing visual tones of the Matrix. This is a visually rich film, and needs to be seen on a large screen with a decent sound system. Do not wait for the $4-a-seat cheap theater two towns over to take in "The Matrix". Do not wait for it on video, but "The Matrix" may become to DVD-equipped home theaters what Top Gun was to VHS stereo home theaters 15 years ago, the standard demonstration tool. The soundtrack features Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Monster Magnet, and others that compliment the action scenes.

Despite being original in many facets, the climax of Matrix does lean towards the conventional. Given the strength of the story, most viewers are not disappointed. After having your brain stretched for 144 minutes, one welcomes a return to the familiar.

What is "The Matrix"? You must see it for yourself.

DAN SULLIVAN is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.

PHOTO (Reeves, Moss), copyright © 1999 Warner Brothers.

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