The Matrix - B+
Viewed April 2, 1999 at Astor Plaza

To quote Keanu Reeves, "Whoa."

The Matrix is, without question, the finest sci-fi action film since Terminator 2[1] It's not quite successful at integrating intelligence with kick-ass effects and action as one would like; while the two Wachowskis throw into their conceptual pot Carrollian, Biblical, and mythical references, the ideas never really jell into a cohesive whole[2]. IF anything, the films suffers from a surfeit of ideas and it contributes to the undeniable bloat in the film, which is 136 minutes long -- at least 20 minutes too long. Still, it's nice to see a big-budget special effects showcase that has more on its mind than "stuff blow up real good".

While Larry and Andy don't completely score on the metaphysical front, they certainly don't miss anything on the more visceral parts of the film -- this is a film whose special effects are truly extraordinary, with shootouts as shot by a demented John Woo with the ability to alter time. These visionary special effects are combined with first rate Hong Kong martial-arts cinematography to create action sequences that are the apotheosis of cool[3].

Some fine acting helps as well. Keanu doesn't have enough charisma to pull off the Christlike Neo, but he does bring a welcome doofiness to the role. Laurence Fishburne as the quasi-guru Morpheus does the best mentor bit since Ben Kenobi got cut down by a lightsaber -- he finds a comfortable Zen zone which manages to be sober without descending into portentousness. While Carrie-Anne Moss doesn't have much to do besides wear black leather, she does it really, really well. Lastly, Hugo Weaving as the uber-Tommy-Lee-Jones Agent Smith makes for a highly entertaining villain.

[1]True, there isn't much in the way of worthy opposition...
[2]Guess they didn't read the bit on the box about using fresh pineapples.
[3]They also get a major assist from Bill Pope, who pulls off some great slo-mo camera work.