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Blu-ray Review: THE NET / THE NET 2.0

Feb 15 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

The Net and The Net 2.0 arrive on double feature Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment. Both tell the story of a computer-savvy woman who has her identity stolen and must fight to regain her identity and clear her name.

    The Net (1995)
    Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is a computer programmer and beta tester who primarily works out of her home (way before it was the “new normal” thing to do). She doesn’t really have much physical interaction with the outside world, usually ordering food delivery via the internet, and her social interactions done via avatars and computerized voices in an internet chat room. She has lived in California for four years, but the only person she really knows is her ex-therapist/lover, Dr. Alan Champion (Dennis Miller). She regularly visits her mother (Diane Baker), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and can no longer really recognize her daughter. One day, while looking into a virus on a client’s computer, Angela stumbles across an odd-looking pi symbol in the corner of the screen. She doesn’t think much of it, but saves the virus to a disk (remember those?!) to send to a colleague to look into later on. Then Angela heads off to take a much needed vacation on a beach in Mexico, where meets the charming Jack Devlin (Jeremy Northam), and the two hit it off. However, she soon realizes that Jack is not who he says he is, and that she’s in danger. She manages to get away, but discovers that her identity has been stolen and replaced with that of a convict. She desperately tries to prove that she’s Angela Bennett, but this is easier said than done due to the fact that she primarily spends her life behind a computer screen, and even her own mother and co-workers wouldn’t be able to identify her. Now she’s on the run from the police, and a cyber terrorist group known as the Praetorians, who want the evidence she unknowingly has on them. Can she figure out why she has been targeted by the Praetorians and stop them before it’s too late?!

    The Net 2.0 (2006)
    In this direct-to-video “sequel”, computer systems analyst Hope Cassidy (Nikki Deloach) leaves her boyfriend James (Neil Hopkins) behind to start a new job in Istanbul. However, shortly after her arrival, she discovers that her bank account has been emptied, and her identity has been stolen and replaced with that of a thief and a murderer. She has been captured by the police and thrown in prison awaiting her trial. Her court-appointed attorney, Dr. Kavak (Demet Akbag)—who doesn’t believe Hope’s claims of her true identity—asks Hope to recount the story of how she got to where she is. Similar to Angela Bennett in the first film, Hope is in a new location where she doesn’t really know anyone, and her replacement passport doesn’t match her true name. Her boyfriend bailed on joining her for the trip, and she has never met her boss in person, so there is no one who can vouch for her identity. The only people Hope can turn to are people she just recently met, and she’s not even sure who she can trust—American tourist (Keegan Connor Tracy), over-zealous taxi driver Osman (Güven Kiraç), and flight attendant Roxelena (Sebnem Dönmez). Hope is desperately trying to prove that she is who she said she is, but someone keeps framing her for murder and the theft of $14 million. She must try to turn the tables on whomever is framing her if she ever wants to get her life back.

The Net is a film I have seen many times over the years, though not very recently. It was originally created at a time when the internet and cell phones were just beginning to become more mainstream. The filmmakers were hoping to prey on people’s fears of this new technology, and the idea that their information was out there and someone could steal their identity, or that cyber terrorists could hack into systems to bring down Wall Street, mess with airport flights, the department of water and power systems, or even mess with your prescriptions with deadly results. I found the film to still be exciting and enjoyable to watch, and still quite relevant today—even more-so as more and more of our lives end up on the internet. Yes, some of the technology like the giant cell phones, modems and CRT monitors are a bit dated, and some of the tech stuff is completely wrong (an internet subnet cannot be greater than 255) or oversimplified (the Esc key never got such top billing on the keyboard), but it’s still a very well put-together, action-packed cat-and-mouse thriller, with strong performances by Sandra Bullock and Jeremy Northam. The release is worth it for this film alone.

The Net 2.0 is a somewhat forgettable follow-up that doesn’t really have much of a connection to the first, except that it’s directed by the son of the first film’s director, and steals some of the same plot beats from the original. Other than that, there are no character or continuity connections. This film feels more like it could have been a 2-hour TV movie or pilot—it definitely ends in such a way as to leave the door open for more adventures. The film has a different look and feel than the original, with more gritty hand-held shots, odd camera angles, and lots of quick cuts. There is this over-used element where scenes will pause, go to slow motion or freeze frame during big action sequences such as Hope running away from the bad guys, or when she’s doing some Mission: Impossible-like or tech stuff, such as rewiring a server. These scenes reminded me of a spy movie where you would see someone with a telephoto lens clicking away at some big exchange, with close-ups and pauses at each step of the hand-off. There are also a lot of quick cutaways to CCTV footage as a way to transition scenes. The film is told in two timelines, constantly cutting back and forth between Hope talking to her lawyer in the jail in the present, and what happened in the past to get her there. There are some twists and turns to the story, but some of the major plot points line up exactly with the original movie. It is unlikely that I’d go back often to re-watch this follow-up like I would with the original.

Mill Creek is bringing both movies to Blu-ray in a single double-feature release (The Net 2.0 for the first time ever) at a really affordable price. The video on both films looks quite good, with a clean, detailed picture, though there is a bit of film dirt here and there in the first movie. The Net offers a 5.1 audio track while The Net 2.0 is just 2.0 audio, however I never really noticed much surround sound use in the original movie. Both films primarily use the center channel for the dialogue, and the stereo channels for more of the ambiance, action and score. I had different issues when enabling the subtitles on both films. In The Net, I found that some of the text would get abbreviated on the right side of the screen, and for The Net 2.0, for scenes in a foreign language that already had hard-captions in yellow text on the screen, enabling the English subtitles still caused white subtitles to placed on top of these had-coded subtitles, which made the text difficult to read—there was no need for captions to be included for the already translated text on screen, or they should have been placed in a different location.

Both films reside on a single dual-layer Blu-ray disc, which comes packed in a standard HD keepcase without a slipcover. There is no digital copy included. Unfortunately Mill Creek has not ported over any of the bonus material from the previous DVD releases of either film, which had included audio commentaries and some featurettes. The Net had previously been released on an expensive MOD Blu-ray by Sony as part of its “Choice Collection”, which did include the 20-minute “From Script To Screen” featurette from the original DVD release. This is available to watch on Sony’s YouTube channel for those who wish to check it out. The Net 2.0 had not received a prior Blu-ray release.



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