It might be an overstatement to say that 1995's high-school techno-thriller Hackers has aged like a fine wine, but it's certainly acquired a distinct quality over time. Maybe it's plain old nostalgia, but the movie's absurd premise and predictable plot only add to the kitsch factor achieved through its over-the-top characters--not to mention jargon-heavy dialogue that probably sounded dated within a month of the film's release ("Woah, she's got a 28.8 BPS modem!"). The movie is hokey for sure, but the cheesiness is endearing, in part because of how delightfully far it goes.
This is owed in a large part to the movie's art direction: it's perhaps the only film that fully captured the '90s cyber-culture aesthetic while setting the story in present day. Depictions of actual computer interfaces all, of course, resemble cryptic and ornate screen-savers, and people go around wearing spandex cycling mock turtlenecks and bright orange road-worker reflector vests as if it were the latest fashion. Teenage geniuses regularly discuss their hacking exploits while sitting around a dingy but elaborately technofied club, where patrons rollerblade around the premises, play video games on a 15 foot high screen, and jam to legitimately good electronic music. The soundtrack to Hackers is, in fact, a compilation of some of the best electronica of the '90s, and features artists like Orbital, Machines of Loving, and Plastico.
Hackers is so awesome in spite of itself, largely because its young actors sell it so well and so likeably. A twenty year old Angelina Jolie seems sultrier than her age, utilizing what would become her trademark smoldering manner with a fun self awareness, always appearing to enjoy the performance as much as we do. Hero Johnny Lee Miller does a great job of attacking his character's super-smarts and pseudo-political hacker philosophy with enthusiasm, and it's funny to hear his Scottish brogue occasionally push through the Boston/New York mishmash of an American accent he affects. It's also fun to watch the chemistry brew between he and Jolie, as the two surpass the simple romance handed to them in the script and emanate real sexual tension--which is no surprise, as they later entered into a short, real-life marriage. Then unknown Matthew Lillard steals the show in all his scenes, playing the hacker clique's resident wild man, spewing non-sequiturs and bursting into excited howls at every opportunity. It may be a little too outrageous and silly for earnest viewing, but Hackers has most definitely earned its place in the halls of '90s nostalgia, positively delicious if watched with more than a few grains of salt.