Virus (1999)

VirusStarring Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, Joanna Pacula, Marshall Bell, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Sherman Augustus, Cliff Curtis.
Written by Dennis Feldman & Chuck Pfarrer.
Directed by John Bruno.

Grade: D+

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

The same impulse that motivates us sometimes to watch a train wreck is what impelled me to rent Virus. I knew it would be bad. But I wanted to know how bad. And I must also confess to a certain predilection for bad sci-fi action movies. They can be fun if viewed with tongue firmly in cheek. So I considered it a movie-rental triumph of sorts when Virus turned out to be not quite as painful as Deep Rising, whose plot it virtually replicates.

Alien set the standard for the sci-fi haunted house movie, wherein a group of intrepid (or foolhardy) adventurers discover a murderous alien presence in an isolated place–often an abandoned spacefaring or seafaring vessel. The conventions of the genre have been well-established over the past twenty years, and Virus uninspiredly copies them all. They are not alone

The alien presence is some sort of electric being that envelops the Russian space station Mir and is somehow transmitted to a research vessel in communication with the station. A week later, a tug boat chances upon the now-deserted ship in the middle of a hurricane, and its crew immediately begins calculating how much the salvage rights are worth. But–like I need to tell you this–they soon find they are not alone.

All the familiar characters are here. The untrustworthy greedy guy. The trustworthy noble guy. The overly nervous guy. The geeky guy. The gutsy girl. The bad-ass black dude. Of course, they are knocked off in predictable order. The female cast members (Jamie Lee Curtis and Joanna Pacula) are watchable enough (Pacula actually acts), but the men (who include Donald Sutherland and one of the Baldwin brothers, I'm not sure which) are boring. Donald SutherlandSutherland phones in his pompous-ass routine upon which he's based his entire second career, and Baldwin struts around trying to look studly.

I have trouble naming one single original element of this movie. On second thought, I take that back. The sight of Sutherland's head strapped into a cybernetic humanoid body is pretty damn funny, and almost by itself is worth the price of a rental. Sometimes an awful action movie is good for laughs, and on this level Virus scores a handful of times. Virus merits a D for its derivative awfulness, but if you think you might appreciate its comedic value, you can nudge the grade up to a C+.

Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

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