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The Matrix

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Matrix

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Andy Wachowski
Rated: R
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: March 1999
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Martial Arts, Cult


*Also starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving, Julian Arahanga, Belinda Mcclory, Marcus Chong, Belinda Mcclory, Larry Wachowski



Review by MrBrown
4 stars out of 4

What is _The_Matrix_? A derivative mélange of elements borrowed from other science fiction films, including _Dark_City_, _The_Fifth_Element_, the _Terminator_ films, _Aliens_, and even this past January's deadly _Virus_. Factor in the presence of wooden Keanu Reeves, whose last venture into the realm of sci-fi was the unspeakable _Johnny_Mnemonic_; Laurence Fishburne, a fine actor whose talents were lost in uneventful spacefarer _Event_Horizon_; and Carrie-Anne Moss, arguably the worst actress in the tantalizingly trashy, much-too-short-lived Aaron Spelling sudser _Models_Inc._ (which is saying _a_lot_), and expectations aren't exactly set soaring. In fact, they come crashing down.

Fraternal writing-directing duo Larry and Andy Wachowski put themselves in a similar situation with their 1996 debut _Bound_. In that revelatory film, they took the unpromising, tin foil-level pairing of Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as larcenous lesbian lovers and turned into cinematic gold--no less than one of the best films of that year. And with _The_Matrix_, the Wachowski Brothers have once again achieved such a feat of alchemy, blending these modest parts into a stunning whole that really has no business working as brilliantly as it does.

Reeves's blank demeanor is a perfect fit for the often befuddled character of Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer who leads a second life in cyberspace under the name "Neo." One night he is contacted by the enigmatic hacker Trinity (Moss) on behalf of the even more enigmatic Morpheus (Fishburne) regarding a mysterious concept that has been haunting him for ages--"the Matrix."

None of this may make much sense in and of itself, but to go into more detail is the ruin one of the great pleasures of the film: that of discovery--that of the story's the secrets as the layers are gradually peeled away and of an entirely new world as imagined by the Wachowskis (and brought to spectacular visual life by special effects producer Matthew Ferro). Once again, they have come up with a story that is smart, challenging, and completely unpredictable, and their direction is characterized by an uncommon attention to detail. For example, the line deliveries by Hugo Weaving (who plays the sinister Agent Smith) initially strike one as laughably stiff, but it is eventually revealed to serve a purpose.

_The_Matrix_ is more than a head trip, however; the Wachowskis deliver the action goods and then some. They are the first American filmmakers to successfully duplicate the wild abandon of the Hong Kong action style, from a number of exhilarating martial arts fight scenes (choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping, director of such high-flying HK films as _Iron_Monkey_ and _Wing_Chun_) to some of the best Woo knockoff shootouts one is likely to find anywhere. As viscerally exciting as these passages are, what is especially impressive is how the Wachowskis come up with an underlying explanation for all the gravity-defying derring-do--something no Hong Kong filmmaker has ever bothered to do.

If this review has struck you as incredibly vague, perhaps maddeningly so, then I have done my job. As Morpheus tells Neo, ""Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." But I will say this much more: one of Morpheus's repeated urgings is to Neo is, "Open your mind," and while watching _The_Matrix_ the audience would be wise to heed that advice. Fortunately for all of us, the Wachowski Brothers already have--and the visionary products of their unbridled imaginations are free for everyone to experience.

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