What can you do when your identity is deleted?!
The Net (1995)
Angela Bennett is a computer expert. This young and beautiful analyst is never far from a computer and modem. The only activity she has outside of computers is visiting her mother. A friend, whom she’s only spoken to over the net and phone, Dale Hessman, sent her a program with a weird glitch for her to de-bug. That night, he left to meet her and was killed in a plane crash. Angela discovers secret information on the disk she has received only hours before she leaves for vacation. Her life then turns into a nightmare, her records are erased from existence and she is given a new identity, one with a police record. She struggles to find out why this has happened and who has it in for her.
The Net is an extremely dated film from a technical standpoint, but it mostly holds up thanks to a charming lead performance from the one and only Sandra Bullock. The film is now over 25 years old and it should make most audiences howl with laughter to see what passed for “cutting edge” at the time – we even have floppy disks! From a dramatic tension standpoint, the film mostly succeeds by slowly ratcheting up the tension that Angela is facing from the initial suspicious death of her friend to the meet-up with a mysterious stranger (Jeremy Northam as a bland stock adversary). While modern audiences may not be able to relate to the technology of the time, there is something universal about the fear of being gaslit. What do you do when no one believes you? How do you prove who you are when there is no one around who really knows you? The film may make you want to pull your hair out due to sheer anxiety, but that seems to be a sign that it is doing something right.
Bullock brings an everywoman quality to the role of Angela that keeps you invested in her nightmarish journey. There is something satisfying about seeing such a brilliant woman depicted on screen even if they set her up for a rough time. Angela rarely makes truly bone-headed decisions when it comes to surviving, but she is also not depicted as a superhuman figure that survives in the face of all logic. The most dramatic moments are not chase scenes of violent tussles, but rather the race to “hack” into computer systems and use her intelligence to save her skin. The direction from Irwin Winkler is more than competent as he stages the sequences in a really compelling manner, especially a emotionally wrought scene on a pier about halfway through the film. The editing could probably stand to be a little tighter as the film feels a little flabby at nearly two hours, but it stays fairly entertaining throughout.
The Net 2.0 (2006)
The life of a young computer systems analyst is thrown into turmoil when, after arriving in Istanbul to start a new job, she finds her credit cards useless, her bank account empty, and her identity stolen.
This direct-to-video disaster is a discredit to the small amount of goodwill that the first film earned when it was first released. Thankfully this film is not directly tied to its predecessor so it can only tarnish the brand name and not the actual story of Angela Bennett. Rather than do anything truly interesting, The Net 2.0 basically recycles the first film but transports it to a Middle Eastern country to tap into the xenophobia that was especially hot at the time. The performances are truly dismal all around, and somehow this film feels even more dated despite coming out over a full decade after the first film. Aesthetically the film is a trainwreck as the budget restrictions could not be more obvious. Simply put, please do not watch this terrible film as there is no enjoyment to gain from it.
These two titles are crammed onto a single Blu-Ray disc courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment with ancient 1080p masters that result in some very disappointing transfers. While the idea behind releasing these two films on a single BD-50 is not inherently terrible, the way it was executed here was dreadful on both accounts. The compression artifacts present are quite unsightly to behold. Nearly every scene looks on the verge of digital collapse with these barely registering as better than DVD quality. The colors lack any sort of vibrancy to make any of the films pop, even in some of the HD-ready beach settings of the original film. The films somehow get worse in quality the newer the film gets, with The Net 2.0 looking terrible from both a cinematography stance as well as the technical presentation. Skin tones lack texture or fine detail, and the black levels are very problematic and blocky. The presentation is at its best during brightly lit daytime shots that are showing close-ups, but even these look like a blocky mess. These transfers might be better than DVD quality, but do not get your hopes up.
This new Blu-Ray set comes with lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track for The Net, and a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix for The Net 2.0. The audio presentations are better than the video presentation in terms of quality, but not substantially. The dialogue holds up decently well, coming though clearly without being stepped on by the score or sound effects. The environmental effects are unobtrusive but fairly noticeable in the presentation. These tracks do exhibit some instances of age related wear and tear and distortion, and you cannot help but feel that they could have been a bit more dynamic under different circumstances. Mostly they just lack that key fidelity and forcefulness that you hope for in an audio track. These tracks should have been cleaned up a bit more to showcase the best versions, but they still get the job done well enough. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.
There are no special features included on this disc.
The Net is an enjoyable thriller that is dated in its technology but not so much in its themes. The true saving grace of the film is the lovely Sandra Bullock who does everything she needs to do to get you invested in this story. The Net 2.0 is a garbage film and should be avoided if at all possible. The Blu-Ray from Mill Creek Entertainment is a mess in terms of its A/V presentation as you can barely tell the difference between this HD transfer and a DVD. This one is difficult to recommend even at its relatively cheap price point.
The Net / The Net 2.0 is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.