eXistenZ
**.9 GM
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm

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Just about every sci-fi film these days, save for those of the "Star " variety, tend to be dark, brooding, gritty and stylized, a la The Matrix. It's good and interesting to see a film that's set so near in the future that it could be next year or something, with nary a mechanical monstrosity in sight.

David Cronenberg's relentlessly repulsive but nonetheless intriguing foray into the world of virtual reality is quite a few steps removed from Keanu Reeves blowing the crap out of things. The mechanics in this film are all disgustingly organic in nature. eXistenZ is a virtual reality game - the latest in a long line of games from the master designer Allegra Geller (who, instead of being a 40-year-old virgin with no social graces, happens to be a fox like Jennifer Jason Leigh) - that is actually a pulsating blob with nubs and such on it for control purposes, and it has an intestine that plugs into a bioport inserted into the human spinal cord. It's thorougly revolting to watch this process happen. Apparently this kind of thing is a Cronenberg staple, but this is the first of his films I've seen.

This is somewhat of a paradoxical film for me. Ordinarily, when I'm able to predict the next twist a movie will take, I tend to be a bit annoyed and bored by it, as most people would. However, rather than thinking "I bet this will happen next," I found myself thinking "Ooh, I hope this happens next!" Sure enough, it would, and I'd be pleased. Yes, it's odd. I felt a bit guilty about that.

Jude Law is good as Ted Pikul, the guy who has no bioport and is supposed to be the guy we relate to... but it's slightly annoying that he doesn't ask all the right questions. Willem Dafoe, though, takes the cake as Gas, the service station owner that secretly does black market bioport installation. He's what the laymen call 'a hoot.'

Overall, it's a quirky (ugh, I hate to use that word) film that's interesting enough to overlook the predictable parts, with a good healthy skewering of the video game culture to boot.

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