Code Hunter (aka Stormwatch, 2002) Movie Review

At the risk of coming across like some Hollywood elitist, let me just say that low-budget filmmakers should be banned from ever making a movie about virtual reality ever again. I say this after having seen “Code Hunter”, a film that is at least 6 years too late to get in on all the “VR craze” that was going on about, well, 10 years ago. All of these movies just reinforce the notion that low-budget filmmakers, God bless their hearts, just shouldn’t tackle a subject like VR because they just don’t have the money, manpower, or the resources to pull it off.

“Code Hunter” (aka “Storm Watch”) is about a computer hacker name Nick (Nick Cornish) who despite being banned from ever touching a computer again for a past hacking crime is nevertheless the reigning champ in a virtual reality game called Aftershock. Nick is so good, in fact that unknown forces blackmail him into stealing a program from a supercomputer built to control the weather. But as it turns out, the third party behind the theft has a sinister motive beyond the one about keeping the weather control device from the Evil Government’s Evil Intentions. Can super hacker Nick make things right, or will giant hurricanes wipe out both the east and west coast? And just whom did Adrian Paul (“Highlander: Endgame”) owe such a big favor to that he ended up in this movie?

The phrases “low budget” and “virtual reality” will immediately tell you that “Code Hunter” doesn’t have the money, manpower, or resources necessary to pull off the whole VR angle. Which would mean, according to my theory, that “Code Hunter” is a movie that should never have been. But it is, and alas I am forced once again to sit through a ridiculously stupid and completely unrealistic version of what constitutes “virtual reality”. I hesitate to go through the process of explaining how badly co-writer/director Terry Cunningham handles the VR angle, but needless to say, all of the problems associated with low-budget movies and VR is here.

It’s probably useless to also proclaim that filmmakers should just stop making movies about hackers. With the advancement of computer technology, hacker themes will continue to intrigue filmmakers, but at the same time no group of people is so completely mystified by the world of hackers and hacking. While the notion of a kid using a computer to shut down the Big Bad Government is rather interesting, filmmakers just never seem to “get” that hacking is, well, not very cinematic. Think about it. What’s so fun about watching a kid staring at a computer and typing relentlessly? There is a reason computer geeks are mostly lonely nerds without a Friday night date, you know.

For a filmmaker, the only way to make a movie about hacking look good on screen is to throw in that whole VR angle so the filmmakers can “recreate” what the hacker is supposedly “seeing” or “doing” while he’s banging away on that computer. The film “Hackers”, made years ago, was the first one to really lie about the “world of hackers”. There have been many liars since.

The star of “Code Hunter” is Nick Cornish, who looks exactly like the type of guy real-life hackers wish they could be. But of course if you spent all your time trying to break into other people’s computers or playing online games so much that you become an expert on them, then you probably also don’t have the time to become a gym rat, which Cornish obviously is with his good looks and buff bod. Girls like Vanessa Marcil, who plays spunky reporter Tess, also probably won’t be “into” a hacker geek like you, either.

“Code Hunter” is essentially a Don’t Mess With Mother Nature movie, which always involves a mad scientist “playing God” and trying to manipulate “Mother Nature”. The supercomputer is the Mad Scientist’s creation, which comes back to bite its creator in the ass like all good Don’t Mess With Mother Nature movies are want to do. Nick is the happy-go-lucky traveler who unwittingly lets loose the creation and exposes the Evil Intentions of the Mad Scientist.

The Mad Scientists are Serena Scott Thomas as an uptight administrator and Scott Rinker as a reformed hacker. Rapper Coolio shows up just long enough to make a fool of himself, and Adrian Paul keeps winking at us by doing “Highlander”-esque moves. Vanessa Marcil, taking time off from daytime soaps, is way too old for youngster Nick, so there’s little kissy-face going on between them. Richard Cox plays the Nitwit Government Official who has nothing valuable to offer; he’s actually just a couple of dumb moves short of becoming a registered Professional Jerk. Jerry Doyle of “Babylon 5” fame returns to the screen as a Navy Admiral. It’s nice to see Jerry back.

I’ll end this review by reiterating that low-budget filmmakers should stop making movies about VR, and filmmakers in general should get over this silly infatuation with hackers and hacking. Here is the only thing writers who plan on writing a VR/hacking screenplay should consider before sitting down to pound out the first draft of that script: Do you have the budget of “The Matrix?”

If the answer is No, then stop writing right now.

Terry Cunningham (director) / Flavia Carrozzi, Terry Cunningham, Steve Latshaw (screenplay)
CAST: Nick Cornish …. Nick Chase
Vanessa Marcil …. Tess
Ling Bai …. Skylar
Adrian Paul …. Neville
Tone Loc …. Ray

Buy Code Hunter on DVD