A classic 90s horror/sci-fi film is THE LAWNMOWER MAN, this was a film that was talked about back when it was released due to its use of computer graphics and virtual reality. In the 90s, Hollywood had an obsession with virtual reality, there are a number of films with that as a core component, oh 90s if you could only see us now. It was a concept that was cool and it represented the advance in entertainment technology that felt exciting. THE LAWNMOWER MAN really uses this idea and goes a step further with it.
Our story here is about Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), a scientist who uses virtual reality as a tool to increase the brain function of apes. It is working but after the death of the ape, Angelo naturally obsessed with his work decides to continue on with it away from the top security facility he works at. He spots local simpleton and lawnmower man Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) and decides to take him on as his subject, with the promising of making him smarter, a wish that Jobe really wants. It works but it works too well and Jobe is soon becoming smarter and smarter but also something else completely.
The first and second thirds of this film are extremely good, well paced and things get intense as well. The third act does fall apart as it goes into a place that you do expect but it does keep on going. The film easily could have been trimmed by 15 minutes, and I do get the feeling that it really wanted to establish everything, but it does. That is the thing, we do get a clear idea of who Dr. Angelo is and about his obsession, just as we get the idea about Jobe’s not so great life. It is clear where the story will be headed, the climax just feels overly silly. This isn’t a film that feels serious but it isn’t silly either, so the climax while expected just doesn’t fit the tone of the film.
However I do like the core idea, the fear of technology and what it could spell for life as we know it. The blending of human and technology is not a new idea, this film takes it in its own direction. How much is too much? A great thought that the film brings up, and while the film is certainly a product of his time, the question is very much relevant today. THE LAWNMOWER MAN is a film that offers up a unique insight into the way we thought in the early 90s, what ideas we had about technology and that in itself is worth the watch.
I really enjoyed the performances here, Pierce Brosnan puts in a fair effort, and even during some of the sillier moments, the man is actually trying. The film however does belong to Jeff Fahey as Jobe, he is the one who goes through all the change, he starts off as a very simple man, taking abuse by the Priest (Jeremy Slate) who looks after him. But as he starts the virtual reality treatments, he slowly begins to change, and he finds the courage and strength he never had before to be who he always wanted to be. He stands up for himself, finds a sexual relationship with one of his clients (Jenny Wright), and gets to actually be the adult in his friendship with neighbour kid Peter (Austin O’Brien). One role and performance I loved so much was Dean Norris (yes Hank from Breaking Bad) as The Director, the man calling the shots for the technology and experiments. I loved it because it was Dean Norris and it was unlike anything I have seen him do, it was a fun role.
Many will say this film is ‘dated’, I am sorry to burst your bubble but every single film ever made can be considered ‘dated’, films are a product of their time, some may contain ideas relevant to the year they were made, others contain ideas that do expand. This is a fantastic look into the time it was made, almost like opening up a history book so to speak. The 90s is what this film is all about, this is a film you can watch and explore how people thought about the future back then. It is a fun and sometimes silly film, not at all perfect but certainly worth a watch.