The Lawnmower Man (1992)
By: Sam Bowron on June 24, 2011  | 
DVD
Beyond | All Regions, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 103 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Brett Leonard
Starring: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright
Screenplay: Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett
Country: USA
External Links
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The concept of virtual reality has come a long way since its research boom in the early nineties. Once a somewhat naive idea concerning the artificial simulation of situations and environments for recreational purposes, VR has since become a key aspect in military training and the development of new combat techniques, thus showing its potentially detrimental capabilities when used in the hands of authority. Regardless of its merits and/or shortcomings, the computerized replication of senses and space is undeniably one of modern science's most fascinating and dangerous endeavors.

Taking the idea of VR to the cinema screen had been done in the past (eg, Tron, Videodrome, Total Recall, etc) but it wasn't until the turn of the nineties that computer generated imagery (aka CGI) first became employed in feature films to the extent that we know it today. Despite ripping off the name of a Stephen King short story (King later sued to have his name removed from the opening credits due to the film bearing almost no resemblance to his work), Brett Leonard's The Lawnmower Man is equal parts thought provoking and highly frustrating; a cursed combination that stops the movie from becoming what could have been a minor sci-fi classic.

Mentally disabled handyman Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) is a relatively happy, albeit bullied young man struggling to become fully accepted amongst a town that views him as nothing more than a tool to be taken advantage of. When ambitious scientist Dr Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) approaches Jobe and proposes an experiment that could increase his intelligence through the use of virtual reality, the results are beyond his expectations, even to the point of intimidation. With Jobe's mind expanding day by day and his consciousness becoming more infused with the technology, Angelo begins to witness some disturbing changes in his subject that may not necessarily be for the better…

Positioned at the centre of The Lawnmower Man is a story with enormous prospect, both from a scientific as well as a storytelling point of view. And while the film may have its heart in the right place for the majority of its running time the real detriment to the material overall is the somewhat cartoonish, juvenile approach it takes to what could have been a genuinely dark, frightening piece of cyberpunk pop culture. Too often is the film marred by hives of illogical behavior, gaping plot holes, potentially offensive stereotypes (Jobe's character is written as if he were the butt of a high school joke) and one too many lame gags that only serve to highlight what the finished product could have been had it taken a less systematic approach to its inspirations. The irony is that almost nothing in the film that has any dramatic bearing on its characters actually occurs within VR. Aside from the 'cybersex' sequence it isn't until the final showdown between Jobe and Angelo that the storyline and computer effects are combined.

The other key problem with the film lies within Jobe's conflicting motivations as he becomes more ingrained with the experiment and the overarching power it has over his mind. In an almost God-like state of mind, he initially states his desire to demonstrate to the rest of humanity the relationship between dormant parts of the brain and their inevitable merging with VR, surmising the relationship as the final stage in human evolution. And despite there never being a single moment that would imply that part of Jobe's psychological transformation is for him to employ deadly force or take the life of another, he suddenly snaps and sets off on a killing spree(?). Not only does this bizarre turn make no sense in the context of his character arch, the deaths almost end up being completely redundant as those slaughtered are of no consequence to the remainder of the story. It's as if Leonard and co-writer Gimel Everett were forced to tack on a few cheap thrills in order to appease studio exec's.

For it all its flaws, there are still many things to appreciate about The Lawnmower Man. The performances are uniformly good, particularly Bronsnan who genuinely convinces as an obsessed scientist and Fahey does his best as always with the material he has to work with. And while there are a few sluggish moments during the final third, the majority of the film is very well paced and director Leonard keeps the drama moving swiftly with some effective bursts of action melded with fun, albeit dated computer effects.

One can't escape the impact virtual reality has had in today's technologically rampant landscape and our now-inherent need for visual stimulation via artificial means. In the hands of a more subtle team The Lawnmower Man could have indeed been something special, even socially poignant. Unfortunately the final rendition, while entertaining enough, can't camouflage its obvious glitches.
Video
Thankfully, The Lawnmower Man has been given a solid transfer to complement its computer-heavy visuals. The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio and is clean and crisp throughout. Occasionally are there moments of mild grain that may impede on your attention, however, they are brief and will probably be over before you know it.
Audio
Steadfast 5.1 and 2.1 tracks are provided, although from time to time some sections of dialogue come across slightly muffled. Otherwise, all's good through the speakers.
Extra Features
Aside from a so-so storyboard to film montage, a standard EPK and theatrical trailer, the most significant extra of interest to fans will no doubt be the 27 minutes worth of deleted scenes, most of which were pulled from the theatrical release for timing reasons. And unlike so many other discs that supply superfluous trimmings, much of the exorcised footage here is actually quite interesting, especially considering how much of the film may have been expanded upon had it made the final cut.
The Verdict
An ambitious yet troubling film, The Lawnmower Man is ultimately best viewed as a mild curiosity rather than the shrewd piece of science fiction it might like to think it is.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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