eXistenZ Review

by "Choo Eng Aun, Jack" (chooea AT mbox3 DOT singnet DOT com DOT sg)
August 19th, 1999


Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring : Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Don McKellar

Running Time approximately 1hr 40mins

Reviewed by Jack Choo

Rating : ** out of *****

The movie starts with a rather se7en-ish opening sequence, rather cool and sets the mood for things to come. The story propels the audience into a neo-reality; somewhat very close to conscious reality but laced with weird tinges of blue and red. eXisTenZ is actually the name of a new virtual-reality game. Supposedly, VR games are highly popular as is considered a legal-drug in this neo-reality. **** (Leigh) is the ultimate game creator and introduces her ultimate game-experience in the form of eXisTenZ. Players are required to have bio-ports embedded in their spine, which plugs to a game-pod in order to enjoy the immersive experience.
During a secretive beta-testing-cum-teaser meeting for this new game, an assassination attempt on *** life occurs and she runs off with fellow bodyguard *** (Law). *** is more of a realists than anything else, afraid that he'll lose reality if he begin to play these games but *** requires his help to immerse together with her into eXisTenZ to check if the program is still functioning properly after the assassination attempt. As they soon discover, they are transported between realities within eXisTenZ uncovering more than they initially expected.

eXisTenZ has all the Cronenberg-gore that is expected of him. Even so, this film is no-where near his cult classics such as Videodrome or Scanners. Not even half as suspenseful as the commercially successful The Fly. eXisTenz can probably be looked upon as his 90's version of Videodrome, even so, it is a poor follow-up. While in most of his famed films, his penchant for gore always hit the right note with theme of the film and plot. In eXisTenz, the gory sequences are no more attached to spirit of the film and seem to be an act of over-indulgence than anything else.

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law, both commendable actors, looked aloof and miss-directed throughout the entire film. The scripting and acting barely pulls the film out of the B-grade category. It was obvious that Cronenberg worked on a really tight-budget and it seems that he handled that pretty well in the production design and values created for this film (the opening sequence, though, probably formed a considerable portion of the budget!) which is actually quite good.

eXisTenZ is too predictable and cliched in these times. 10 years ago, it would have been another classic for Cronenberg. Cronenberg fans however, (those people who enjoy seeing friends getting queasy over mutilation on film) should not give this film a miss as some form of appreciation can still be offered by you.

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