Starring Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu
Written By: Brian King
Directed By: Vincenzo Natali
Studio: Disney/ Buena Vista
Buy on Amazon.com
Many crappy films begin with potential and end up complete trash. In a weird Freaky Friday-ish switcheroo, Cypher begins the worst movie of all time, slowly becomes stylishly creepy, and then ends with a good old-fashioned mindfuck.
Cypher begins ridiculously noir, with every noir clich in the book: dark, blue-tinted cinematography; the mysterious woman at the bar slowly exhaling blue lines of smoke; characters that drink single-malt scotch, receive brown envelopes with TOP SECRET emblazoned on the back, and have migraines by day, nightmares by night, both with silly, choppy flashbacks.
What makes the noir clichs even more ridiculous is that the story in the beginning doesn’t warrant them. It begins with a straight-laced guy (Jeremy Northam) applying for a job as a corporate spy, and going on missions under an alias to secretly record speeches at cosmetics conventions using Bond-like instruments, such as pens with little cameras on them and crap. For the first half hour, you wonder at the idiocy of the storyline and noir trappings, considering the dude is taping dopey Marketing 101 stock phrases. That’s around when he meets the mysterious woman at the bar, Lucy Liu in a bad wig (but still cross-eyed). Standard noir dialogue ensues.
Most rational people would’ve turned this crap off by this point, but the remote was just out of reach. Amazingly, the movie got better. The plot twists and twists and twists, and soon you realize the idiotic setup WAS an idiotic setup, and not just bad filmmaking. The film begins in earnest now, with the point shifting from corporate espionage to Manchurian Candidate-ish brainwashing, and agents become double agents, then triple agents, and so on, into a puzzlebox of who’s working for who.
For those of us who’ve seen movies like Fight Club or Memento, the ending didn’t come as much of a surprise, but it was still fulfilling and befitting. While not nearly a great movie like those I mentioned, it did rise above its initial stupidity into a complex thought experiment. If you can overcome the first third, let your brain unravel the movie, even if your eyes keep rolling.
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC
Widescreen 1.85:1 Color (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 96 minutes