STUDIO: Buena Vista
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 96 Minutes

Most movies leave an impression that can be easily backed up. Odds are, if you walk out of a movie pleased or angry, you can give reasons why. It’s rare to walk out saying “That sucked. I don’t know why it sucked, but it did.” Sometimes a movie might be better than it had a right to be so you could say “That was great! It really shouldn’t have been that good – but everything seemed to click right and it worked.”

It’s rare (I think) where the opposite can be said. Where everything about a movie is “good” but, ultimately, the product is LESS than the sum of its parts. As the movie goes on the less you like it – but for little reason. Cypher is that movie. There are some very positive aspects to it, and a few neutral ones, but, overall, the movie just falls short.

The world from Gary Coleman’s perspective.

The Flick

Cypher starts off with a cool story. Morgan Stanley (Jeremy Northam) is an average guy who gets a new job at a high tech company. His new job is a corporate spy (think James Bond going after Microsoft). He is sent all over the country to record the boring speeches made at boring tradeshows. He gets to use a fake identity during the gig and learns to drink single malt Scotch and smoke expensive cigarettes. What could go wrong?

A lot, apparently. Morgan meets a shadowy woman (Lucy Liu – who still looks embarrassed about Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever) who tells him his new gig isn’t what he thinks it is. Soon he is forced into a world of corporate spies, double agents, triple agents, brain washing and bad special effects.

“In this edition of ‘Scoring for Geeks’ we will talk about boobies. Allow me to demonstrate using materials you’ll all be comfortable with."

Up to this point the movie is very interesting. The viewer isn’t too sure where the film is going – but we are still OK with being lead. As long as the movie goes somewhere and continues to be interesting.

But, it doesn’t. Suddenly the movie shifts gears slightly and becomes plodding. The questions that were so expertly set up in the first two acts start getting generic answers. The actors (especially Northam) who did so well in the beginning become unbelievable. The special effects that were passable early on become embarrassing.

Any critic that panned Alexander will be give “special treatment” at screenings for Oliver Stone’s next movie.

The movie feels like a sprinter running a marathon. It starts off really strong, but it ends weakly; like the story, actors, etc., were out of breath by the third act.

This is probably a function of the directing. But, the directing of the movie by and large isn’t bad. (Again, it is hard to review – the individual elements are all good – but the gel keeping them together for 90 min is weak.) Director Vincenzo Natali does an admirable job building the intrigue for the story – especially in the first act. He establishes a clear “look” of the film early on that gives the film an added element that most cheap Sci-Fi fare would have ignored. And, Natali knows his way around cheap Sci-Fi fare as he directed Cube way back when.

Dr. Okinawa’s command of the English language often failed him. But, never so embarrassingly as when his boss told him to include “the big cheese” in the important presentation.

But, as the film wears on…so do all the elements. I remember loving the movie about 30 minutes into it and really liking it at 60 minutes, but thinking “well, this was OK” at 90.

You can’t say it was a horrible effort – all the pieces of the puzzle are there; but they just don’t fit. It’s like an old college friend that comes for a visit. The first night is fun as you drink and swap stories. The second night is still enjoyable, but not as fun. By the third night you are still having a relatively good time, but you really want your couch back.

5 out of 10

Local Trekkies prepare to beat their meat.

The Look

Cypher has a great style, especially in the beginning. The opening scene and title credits are done really well and they get the viewer in the mood for a different kind of movie. Think a Sci-Fi sleek version of the opening for Catch Me if You Can.

As the movie goes on, the look begins to wane a bit. That’s unfortunate. What’s worse is there are a few special effects shots that are downright bad and they really knock the look of the film off-center. It is hard to think “Damn this movie looks cool” after you see an effect shot that looks like a bad fantasy painting you see some idiot trying to sell at a Con.

7 out of 10

No no, Superman, this won’t hurt a bit.

The Noise

Pretty basic stuff. There really isn’t anything in the movie to spend much time or resources on kick-ass sound – so they didn’t. The dialogue comes through just fine.

The best part of the sound is that the score is at a great level. Sometimes a score is too loud or too soft – not here. It fits nicely in the background – but no so far back you can’t hear it.

6.31 out of 10

The Blue Man Group conducts DUI traffic stops for the local police.

The Goodies

Goodies? How about a kick in the balls instead? No extras for you.

0 out of 10

Spoiler from the season premier of Lost.

The Artwork

This is downright awful. There is nothing appealing about the cover art. The floating heads aside, what the hell is up with the floating Lucy Liu in the red streak in the middle? This cover looks like a crappy Sci-Fi movie desperately looking for someone to buy it at the Wal-Mart $5 bin.

3 out of 10

Overall: 4.26 out of 10