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  Lawnmower Man, The Access Denied
Year: 1992
Director: Brett Leonard
Stars: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Mark Bringelson, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Colleen Coffey, Jim Landis, Troy Evans, Rosalee Mayeux, Austin O'Brien, Michael Gregory, Joe Hart, John Laughlin, Ray Lykins
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) is a research scientist whose work is pushing back boundaries in computer technology and the ways it can enhance the modern world, with a particular interest in virtual reality. However, he feels his insights are being put to bad use when his favourite chimp is encouraged to be put into a military programme, resulting in the animal giving in to its violent impulses and going on a rampage in the institute which sees it shot dead before it can do any more damage. Angelo is very angry about the situation, but it does spur him on to fresh research, this time on humans...

Or one human in particular, which is the Lawnmower Man of the title, but crucially not the Lawnmower Man of Stephen King's short story, and when his name appeared all over the publicity he was understandably aggrieved because director Brett Leonard had simply put it onto an existing script to increase its commercial value. There were elements in common, but while there may have been a lawnmower in it, and a man who uses that lawnmower, there was no supernatural Pan-like entity eating vast quantities of freshly mown grass here, though there was a bit where a man is killed by said machine.

Nope, this was a virtual reality flick, which was a buzzword in the media at the time since in a few years we were all meant to be donning helmets and plunging into cyberspace, though when the gadget was made available nausea was the most widespread feeling that it brought out, and soon we were all caught up in the internet for our most pervasive technology interface. With a few tweaks, Brett Leonard's screenplay could have been made an internet-relevant work, but as it was its graphics, then supposedly state of the art, dated very quickly: compare the virtual world here to the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, for example, and the difference was extremely noticeable.

So what you had was an update of the old mad scientist tale, except instead of experimenting on himself Dr Angelo thinks he'll do a good deed by increasing the brainpower of the local gardener Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey with one of the worst wigs in cinema history - at least we would hope it was a wig), thanks to the unfortunate fellow possessing less faculties than Angelo thinks he really should. Therefore the backward and friendly (but picked on) Jobe commences the scientist's tests and begins to advance his learning capacity, slowly at first but with all the religious imagery we see it's clear Leonard was wanting us to contemplate how advances in technology convinced people to play God, first Angelo and then the now-genius level Jobe.

Along with those intelligence boons comes psychic powers, which is too much for his sanity to take and soon Jobe is getting his revenge on those who slighted him when he was backward, such as the bullying mechanic or the priest who got his kicks by beating the Devil out of him with a leather belt. But it's not enough, and a megalomania develops with Jobe obsessed by the idea that he should be ruling the world, which he will do by dominating cyberspace. Quite why his supermind would want to do such a thing when he was getting on very successfully in the real world with his newfound talents is unexplored, but there was a lot about this which relied too heavily on the electro-gimmickery, including the much emphasised in the ads first ever virtual reality sex scene between Fahey and Jenny Wright (in her last major role before she slipped off the radar, leaving a cult of fans asking "Whatever happpened to...?"). But like a lot of the selling points here, it was a damp squib, particularly at this remove, with nostalgists the remaining audience. Music by Dan Wyman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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