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Virtual Assassin (1995)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Brion James, Suki Kaiser, Garvin Cross, Johnny Cuthbert, James Thom

Written By: Eric Poppen Directed By: Robert Lee

The Short Version

It’s like Die Hard with a computer virus!

It’s got a tiny budget!

It’s got Brion James and The Incredible Traveling Accent!

It’s loaded with mid-90s fad cheez like VR, bad CG, and massive analog cell phones!

Virtual Assassin is an absolute blast and makes for a great late night cheez fest flick.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Pan it all you want; it’s still a great excuse for a party on cheap movie night.

Pairs Well With...


“How do you drink that stuff?”


“After tonight, God will be lucky if I even return his phone calls.”

Virtual Assassin – or, if you prefer its original title, Cyberjack – has the audacity to open up with a quote from no less esteemed a personage than Professor Stephen Hawking.  No, it’s not the one cited above – though that would be utterly hilarious if it was, Dr. Hawking has, to my knowledge, never actually said such a thing – but rather, it’s this one:

“A computer virus should be considered a form of life, but I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.  We’ve created life in our own image.”

-Stephen Hawking, 1994

Pretty deep stuff, huh?  Needless to say, a direct-to-video budget flick with a title like Virtual Assassin isn’t likely to plumb those depths to any major degree, but you know what, folks?  That’s okay.  I’d be honestly disappointed if it tried.  Because really, Virtual Assassin is just a home video take on Die Hard with a computer virus, and – smartly – that’s as far as the filmmakers’ aspirations go.  As a result, they hit a very cheesy home run that aficionados of the cheap shelf can truly turn into a party.

The movie starts off by introducing the audience to Nick James (Michael Dudikoff, Avenging Force), a cop from a future defined by hilarious computer generated effects.  He and his partner are pursuing a baddie named Nassim (Brion James, Red Scorpion), and when they corner him in a shipping yard, things look like they’re in the bag.  But of course, the tables turn, Nassim gets a gun to the partner’s head, and Nick lowers his weapon.  Needless to say, the partner does not live happily ever after… or at all.

Flash forward to Nick’s pathetic new life after burning out and turning in his badge.  Now he’s a drunk with a gambling problem who works as a janitor for a software company, and he sees nothing good on the horizon.  But that’s only because he has yet to meet the lovely Dr. Alex Royce (Suki Kaiser, Red Scorpion 2), who’s part of a team working on The Computer Virus of the Future: one that combines with a biological neural network in an effort to create a powerful, fast-acting intelligence capable of benignly assessing a network’s vulnerabilities and sealing them up, effectively making it into an antivirus.  At least that’s the company’s spin… if only the thing were stable.

Anyone care to guess which master criminal decides to take the software company’s headquarters hostage in hopes of getting his hands on said unstable virus?  Or which janitor happens to be the world’s only hope of survival?  (Yeah, that’s right; not just the building’s occupants, but the whole world.)  Don’t think too hard, now…

The basic facts of Virtual Assassin suggest a complete train wreck of film only enjoyable to the drunk.  But even acknowledging that Virtual Assassin would be enjoyable to many people while they’re drunk, the truth is that it’s also enjoyable for people who are sober.  This is one cheez platter that’s much greater than the sum of its parts.

And what parts does the film’s value exceed, you ask?  Here’s a sample list that’s far from being exhaustive – there’s a lot of cheez here – but I think you’ll get the point.

Who Comes Up With These Titles?  The title by which this flick is generally known now – Virtual Assassin – is half nonsense: there’s no assassin to be found in this movie.  Violent guys, sure, but no assassins.  As for virtual… does the stripper count?  (Of course there’s a gratuitous topless shot.)  The original title – Cyberjack – sounds like nonsense but is, frighteningly enough, more accurate.  Either way, both titles sound pretty cheesy, and set even savvy viewers up for pretty low expectations.

Michael Dudikoff is Our Burnout Hero.  It took me a while to come around, but I like Michael Dudikoff.  Really.  That’s why I was especially happy to see his name atop the credits even though the plot for Virtual Assassin seems tailor made for the overexposed and undertalented Lorenzo Lamas.  With that said, while Dudikoff is likable as always and looks decent on the rare occasions when he’s asked to put up a real fight, I just can’t buy him as a cop in this flick, or even as the husk of one.  The burnout part he’s got down to a science, and the same holds true for the “awkward dork who’s nervous around real women” part, but I have to admit that Lamas would have made a better cop.  However, he also would have sucked in every other respect and taken the whole movie with him, whereas Dudikoff keeps the film fun in a way that makes it easy to overlook that whole “yeah cop whatever” thing. 

In his defense, the production team has really gone out of its way to emphasize the burnout aspect of Dudikoff’s character.  After feeling so guilty about letting his partner die that he resigns from the police force, the character not only turns into an impoverished drunk with a gambling problem who’s up to his ass in debt with an unforgiving loan shark, but he doesn’t even rate a one-bedroom tenement apartment in a crappy gang infested neighborhood.  Instead, he lives in a rundown Airstream trailer parked in a vacant lot outside a tenement in a crappy gang infested neighborhood.  Hammer down the point much?

Brion James and The Incredible Traveling Accent.  Brion James is one of the great character players of his day, and he absolutely goes to town with the role of Nassim, enjoyably hamming it up for all the part’s worth and then some.  Audiences also get to have fun following his accent as it takes a world tour throughout the course of the movie.  Where will the next line come from?  Will he sound like an Aussie?  Will he sound like a Chicago goombah?  Perhaps a Brit stevedore?  One never knows!  Every sentence is a new travel adventure… and it is fun as hell to listen to.  It’s made even more fun because Brion James is doing it while still taking his role seriously; he’s definitely not phoning this one in, folks.  No, he’s having a blast, and he’s taking the entire audience along for the ride.

If you have to point to one single element that makes Virtual Assassin work, that’s it right there.  Everyone involved knows that this isn’t going to be an Oscar winner, but they still do everything they can to make it the best movie it can be while staying true to the spirit of the occasion… and that occasion happens to be a cheez fest.

Holy Fad-tastic, Batman!  The number of fads and time stamps that go into Virtual Assassin is quite impressive.  “Virtual Reality” was a huge buzz term back in the mid 1990s, and as the popular title suggests, this flick has decided to run with the concept.  The producers have also decided to play around with those “futuristic computer graphics,” and while CGI effects often bug the crap out of me, here, they are absolutely hilarious.  Does that skybus look real to anyone?  Of course not, and that’s what makes it funny.  Why does the flying car crash right through the “virtual billboard” when there’s nothing but open sky for miles around?  Because it can.  And the lazerz… Oh, wow, the lazerz… shooting green out of the dude’s eyes because he got infected by a computer virus… (Another popular tech buzz term of the time that the world at large had no real concept of.)  Take it in the proper spirit, folks, and this is roll on the floor funny stuff.

Just like the “futuristic,” brick-sized analog cell phones strapped to the cops’ chests to make them look all techie badass and stuff.  (Nevermind that Our Hero listens to baseball games on a… transistor radio.  I bet some people reading this have never even seen one of those without the aid of Google Images.)  Or the fact that the cars of the future will have audibly electric engines (and, of course, barcode license plates), but still look exactly like they came off a used car lot circa 1990.  And let’s not forget the whole “save the world by ‘hacking’ in 30 seconds” gag, and if we want to go for the biggest fad of all from the era, why not rip off Die Hard on as many occasions as possible?  (Bonus: let’s also make a nod to Total Recall!  Why not, right?)

Dynamite Dialogue.  If there’s any single constant that unites the best action flicks of the 80s and 90s, regardless of budget, it’s that they all tend to have some really snappy one and two liners tossed into their scripts, and Virtual Assassin is no different.  Not only is this a fun flick to watch (hot damn, those green lazerz…), but it’s also a fun flick to listen to.  I won’t spoil the goodies beyond the samples I’ve already quoted; I’ll just say that if you’re any kind of fan of this era, you’ll appreciate the wit that finds its way into the cheez.

Is there more?  Of course there is; lots more, in fact, but I think you get the point.  Virtual Assassin may be made of cheez, but it’s self aware cheez that manages to avoid confusing self awareness with self consciousness.  It’s a flick that understands what it is and just goes for it, and that’s something that I very much appreciate as a genre fan.  Yeah, it’s cheap stuff, but sometimes, that’s exactly what the entertainment gods call for.

Bottom line, Virtual Assassin is totally cheesy, but it’s also totally fun.  It’s especially awesome if you remember the mid-90s and are therefore capable of fully appreciating just how much of the future that the pop culture of the day got wrong, but if you’re an action fan of any kind who’s not averse to checking out the cheez tray, this flick is definitely worth your time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, March, 2013

More From The Bar! | Johnny Mnemonic | Looper | Laser Mission | TC 2000 |

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