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For semi-computer nerds like me films about hackers and their “business” are very appealing. Sure, there have been countless hacker movies released in the past, some of which are good but the most of which are pretty standard fare. But nevertheless these films always grab my eye and seem very appealing before I sit down to take them in. And in this case, that’s really where most of the appeal ends.

Movie
Takedown is based on the supposedly true story of a master hacker called Kevin Mitnick. Skeet Ulrich, the B-grade film version of Johnny Depp, is assigned the role of the “most wanted computer criminal in US history”. Hacking is his obsession, with countless hours spent on the computer looking for trouble or an easy way to stuff around. It a nerd’s version of fun, really.

Takedown

Mitnick’s first job involves showing up another hacker who claims to have information about a system called S.A.S. But this amateur hacker was set up by the FBI to deliver Mitnick, who had been under their watchful eye for some time. This is where things are meant to get complicated.

Mitnick does everything he can to obtain this S.A.S system and being the best hacker in the land means he does just that. But a large portion of Mitnick’s swindling involves duping gullible employees into giving him classified information so he’s not exactly doing it all from a computer desk. And he’s a nice guy, too. With thousands of bank accounts at his fingertips he still refuses to transfer some large funds here and there. How noble.

We flash forward two years to find Mitnick return to his home town after running from the law all that time. He shacks up with an old buddy whilst still getting up to no good with his PC. Hot on his trail is FBI agent McCoy Rollins (Tom Berenger a long way from the days of Platoon) and his understudy Mitch Gibson (Christopher McDonald in another unexciting role).

Mitnick latches on to a leading computer expert named Shimomura (Russell Wong doing a serviceable job), who has a code that can scan phone lines across a range of frequencies, allowing people like Mitnick to stay ahead of the law if they get their hands on the code. So Shimomura becomes caught up in all this nerd-action and the story goes through its paces in the logical fashion.

For a hacking film the storyline is largely uneventful, with basically the whole film dealing with Mitnick’s brushes with the law and his constant desire to be a bit of a lair. The pace is quite slow after a rather furious beginning and the performances are pretty average to say the least. There’s little to get excited about except watching how the whole thing will pan out, and even then it’s not all that impressive.

Takedown

There’s value in this film, however, so it’s not a total waste of time and it comes in at a relatively short 92 minutes. But there’s plenty better hacking films out there starting with the obvious (Hackers, you dummies), which ironically this film was a sequel to, according to a bootleg title doing the rounds just before it’s release. But it’s definitely no Hackers, and Ulrich is far from even the average Johnny Lee Miller. Computer nerds might find some value, but other would be better off checking out Miller’s good work or even Tim Robbins’ classy impression of Bill Gates in Antitrust.

Video
Roadshow still continue to churn out quality transfers even for their lesser-lights and this one is actually quite good. It’s definitely not as sharp and vibrant as some of their bigger releases but for a straight-to-DVD release it’ll do. The film is presented in 1.85:1 and contains very few visual nasties save for some aliasing here and there and grain creeping in on occasion. Definitely nothing to write home about but it’s still above average on the whole.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes use of several swooshes and beeps used as transitions during the film. This alone lifts the audio up a notch in terms of immersing the viewer in the action. There are the usual ambient sounds and effect that bounce around the rears but the musical soundtrack is actually quite subdued. There’s some subwoofer action at various points, making this a pretty good track overall.

Extras
Mitnick must have stolen the extras section on this DVD because there’s absolutely nothing in here. Flaming hackers always moving stuff around. Or perhaps there was nothing of interest to add to the disc?

Takedown

Overall
There are plenty better hacking movies out there but there may be a few of you who will still get a kick out of this one. The story is pretty average, only boosted by the “true story” tag which makes things just that little bit more interesting. The video is quite good and the audio pretty strong, even though the extras section is more bare than Skeet Ulrich’s resume. As a rental disc this one might have worth after you’ve exhausted a lot of other options.


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