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(1999) (Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin) (R)

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Sci-fi: The crew of a salvage tug must contend with an alien life form that's manifested itself as bio-mechanical beings onboard an abandoned Russian science ship.
Seven days after a strange electrical life force attacks and apparently kills the crew of a Russian space station as well as that of a companion oceangoing science ship, the crew of the Sea Star, a salvage tug, come across the deserted liner in the eye of a typhoon.

Crusty and somewhat deranged Captain Everton (DONALD SUTHERLAND), who nearly committed suicide after having just lost a salvaged barge in the middle of the storm, decries that they can salvage the abandoned ship, estimated to be worth several hundred million dollars, and thus more than cut their losses.

His crew, consisting of Steve Baker (WILLIAM BALDWIN), Woods (MARSHALL BELL), Squeaky (JULIO OSCAR MECHOSO), Richie (SHERMAN AUGUSTUS) and Hiko (CLIFF CURTIS), is equally happy as they'll get a percentage of the take. The lone dissenter is navigator "Kit" Foster (JAMIE LEE CURTIS) who claims that there's no such thing as easy money.

She couldn't be more right, for it's not long before their tug sinks during a suspicious accident, and they discover the Russian ship's sole survivor, Nadia (JOANNA PACULA), who's scared out of her mind and tells them that they must turn off the power or they'll all die.

Of course, they think she's crazy, but after several perilous encounters with odd creatures that are onboard the ship, they begin to believe her. They also eventually realize that this alien life force is building physical versions of itself, consisting of half human, half mechanical beings, so that it can rid the ship of its "virus" -- the humans it's discovered. From that point on, the crew must deal with the creatures that wish to use them for spare parts as it sets sail through the typhoon for a communications base where it can take over the world.

Preteens probably won't, but fans of someone in the cast or of "Alien" type movies just might.
For sci-fi violence/gore, and for language.
  • JAMIE LEE CURTIS plays a tough lady who must contend with the alien life force that's trying to kill her and the rest of the crew. Along the way she cusses a bit.
  • WILLIAM BALDWIN plays a contract worker who finds himself in the same situation and also cusses a bit.
  • DONALD SUTHERLAND plays the crusty and deranged captain who nearly commits suicide and then does whatever it takes to ensure he gets his salvage money, no matter the cost to his crew.
  • The rest of the cast members play characters caught in the same situation where they must survive the attacks.


    OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
    Like the viral-based colds that affect most everyone during the bitter winter months, Universal's "Virus" has appropriately arrived in the midst of the flu and cold -- not to mention the poor and bad movie dumping ground -- season. Ready to infect anyone brave (or foolish) enough to see it, the film -- that emulates those nasty bugs that arrive every year and essentially aren't that much different from their earlier incarnations -- is simply a mishmash and retreading of elements from many better and previously released pictures.

    If you get the impression that you've seen this movie -- or at least elements in it -- before, that should come as no great surprise since some of the filmmakers here previously worked on other films from which this one not so subtly does its borrowing.

    First-time director John Bruno, whose previous life consisted of manning some spectacular special effects for various films, worked on "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," while producer Gale Anne Hurd also worked on that film as well as "Aliens," and co-screenwriter Dennis Feldman previously wrote "Species," all that directly or indirectly influenced this production. That's not to mention other pictures such as "Demon Seed," "Deep Rising," "Sphere," "Runaway," and, of course, the original "Frankenstein" films -- where a "master" created life after death -- that all show up in one way or another here.

    Nonetheless, and considering all of that, for a campy, eat as much popcorn until you get queasy type of film, this one is a modestly passable enough diversion, as long as you park all semblances of your brain at the door before going in, lest the overabundant stupidity weaken your defenses like any good virus will. Despite the "been there, seen that" repetitious nature of what unfolds, there's plenty of suspenseful action and enough blood and gore to please moviegoers who enjoy that sort of material.

    Nonetheless, the proceedings are more than predictable as they follow the "cast is there to be picked off one by one, but the higher the paid star, the more likely they'll make it through until the end of the film" requirements that also include the requisite former star (Sutherland) who gets to ham it up as the outrageous villain.

    The film is also essentially less than suspenseful or scary (unless you're very young or have a low tolerance for such matters), but it does manage to scurry along at enough of a breakneck clip that aficionados of this sort of film will probably walk away at least partially satisfied. That said, this is clearly more of a better video rental than a "must see" theatrical event, and this film shouldn't last much longer in the theaters than the typical virus-based cold does in your body.

    The performances are standard for a film such as this, with Jamie Lee Curtis ("Halloween," "True Lies") and William Baldwin ("Fair Game," "Backdraft") giving it a bit more star power than it probably deserves, although their acting requirements are pretty much limited to looking concerned, scared and a bit worse for the wear after all is said and done.

    Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland ("Disclosure," "Outbreak") is appropriately campy in a role that makes one wonder if this is how his character Oddball from "Kelly's Heroes" may have turned out, and at least gives the film a bit of much needed comic relief. The rest of the cast, however, only adequately perform their duty of taking up space before becoming fodder for the killing sprees.

    Although the creature special effects are decently handled, the exterior shots of the ships going through the crashing waves of a typhoon look so bad that they instantly remind one of those old Godzilla movies where it was painfully obvious that small models were being used to create the effect. For a relatively big budget film like this and considering the director's former work as a visual effects supervisor, it's a bit surprising to see such obviously faked effects.

    Upon consideration of the film lifting elements from so many other pictures, on the other hand, that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Predictable, repetitious and filled with moments that make one believe that some of these characters grew up in the idiot-filled towns where "Halloween" and other such films took place (ie. They do stupid, go out of your way to be killed, things), the film may please some moviegoers. Most, however, will find that a heaping dose of one's favorite cold medicine and a good night's sleep should alleviate any symptoms this "Virus" may cause. We give the film a 2 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with 10 "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases. Violence is also extreme with many people being killed and/or used as body parts for the bio-mechanical beings, all of which results in an extreme amount of blood and gore appearing on screen.

    Although adults who've seen many films similar to this one may not find it so, younger kids and those with low tolerance levels for "monsters on the hunt" type stories may find the proceedings unsettling, suspenseful and/or downright scary.

    Beyond all of that, however, many of the remaining categories have little in the way of major objectionable content. Even so, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for someone in your home.

    Of special note for those affected by such scenes, a few moments of bright, full-screen flashes of light occur during the film.

  • Woods takes a drink of what's presumably liquor.
  • Everton drinks several shots of liquor.
  • The crew members find some blood on the Russian ship's walls and stairs.
  • Hiko's leg is quite bloody after being injured, and we see a closeup of Foster sewing up the open and very bloody wound.
  • Woods' chest is bloody after he's been shot there with two nails.
  • We see many views of the half human, half mechanical beings that contain bloody and severed or mutilated body parts that may be unsettling or gross to some viewers.
  • We also hear and see a crew member putting their fingers into the gooey and exposed brain of a bio-mechanical being.
  • A creature drives a large hole through a crew member, killing him (and is very bloody).
  • We see the "shop room" where many gross and bloody human body parts are being worked on or assembled into bio-mechanical beings.
  • By the end of the film, the surviving crew members are somewhat bloody.
  • Foster encounters many bloody and floating dead bodies.
  • A man is bloody and we see pieces of metal sticking up through his body.
  • We see another character's face that is very bloody.
  • Everton is only concerned with his own financial well-being, and threatens the others and eventually sides with the alien life force so that he can get his money.
  • Depending on the viewer's age and tolerance for such material, the following (and what's listed under "Blood/Gore" and "Violence") may or may not be tense or scary to them.
  • The scene where an electrical energy force envelops a space station and then attacks its crew, as well as that of a science ship, may be scary to some viewers.
  • Some may find scenes where the salvage tug (and later the Russian science ship) goes through the crashing waves of a typhoon (and appear ready to sink) to be suspenseful.
  • Everton, suicidal over losing his salvaged find, puts his revolver in his mouth, ready to kill himself, but doesn't.
  • Various scenes (that occur throughout the film) where the crew board the Russian science ship, or slowly make their way through her passageways, wary of what they may find, may be scary or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • The Sea Star quickly begins to sink with Hiko trapped onboard and the others must rescue him.
  • Squeaky crawls into a small tunnel following a slowly moving cable and is then grabbed and strangled by some of them.
  • Some crew members are nearly washed overboard (and one finally is).
  • The last third of the movie consists of many scenes where the large bio-mechanical beings chase after and/or kill the crew members who hope to blow up and sink the ship to kill those creatures may be tense or scary to audience members.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns/Grenades: Carried and/or used to threaten, wound, or kill people and bio-mechanical beings. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "Holy sh*t," "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Bloody," "Bloody hell," "That sucks" and "Bastard."
  • Everton, suicidal over losing his salvaged find, puts his revolver in his mouth, ready to kill himself, but doesn't.
  • Upon opening a door, several birds suddenly fly out.
  • A person suddenly jumps out and fires a machine gun at several crew members.
  • A separated brain suddenly slaps back together again and a creature suddenly pops up and grabs a person.
  • A person suddenly grabs another person.
  • An extreme amount of frightening, suspenseful and action-oriented music occurs throughout the film.
  • None.
  • At least 10 "f" words, 22 "s" words, 25 hells, 10 damns, 6 asses, 2 S.O.B.s, 2 craps, and 7 uses of "Jesus Christ," 4 of "G-damn," 2 of "Oh my God" and 1 each of "For Christ's sakes," "Oh Jesus," "Oh God" and "For God's sakes" as exclamations.
  • A character comments on Foster being "good," which another character then briefly misinterprets in a sexual manner.
  • Richie briefly holds something to his mouth that may be an unlit cigarette, but it's difficult to be positive of that.
  • A crew member comments on finding cigarettes in a bag.
  • None.
  • Everton, suicidal over losing his salvaged find, puts his revolver in his mouth, ready to kill himself, but doesn't.
  • Why Everton sides with the alien life force (he hopes to still get his money after all of this).
  • Several cosmonauts are apparently killed/electrocuted by the alien life force, as are several hundred onboard the Russian science ship.
  • Everton threatens to shoot Baker.
  • The alien life force drops an anchor through the Sea Star, injuring Hiko and eventually sinking the tug.
  • A crew member is strangled by several cables.
  • Nadia pops out and fires a machine gun at several crew members. Baker finally knocks her out.
  • A mechanical creature pops up and some crew members repeatedly shoot it.
  • Nadia knocks down Everton trying to escape.
  • A small machine shoots Woods with two nails, another tries to drill into Richie, and the two then exchange massive amounts of gunfire with a larger bio-mechanical being.
  • Everton threatens to shoot Nadia with his revolver.
  • Baker repeatedly slams a rifle butt against a creature's arm (that's just grabbed another person) until he severs it from its body.
  • A crew member shoots another bio-mechanical being.
  • A creature drives a hole through a crew member, killing him (and is very bloody) and the other crew members repeatedly shoot this creature.
  • Foster punches Everton in the face.
  • A crew member shoots another bio-mechanical being and then blasts open a wall with a grenade.
  • More machine gun fire is exchanged between a creature and the crew.
  • A person is washed overboard, presumably to their death.
  • A bio-mechanical being strikes Foster, causing Baker to then hit him with an ax (who is then also knocked to the floor). Foster then shoots the creature in the face and Baker attaches a grenade to him that eventually explodes and kills the creature.
  • A creature begins to electrocute Foster and Baker then shoots it, followed by Richie shooting it with an explosive. It then knocks down the two men, killing one of them.
  • A character, who's been captured by the creature, purposefully causes an explosion that kills her and presumably the creature.
  • A huge explosion destroys a ship and presumably any creatures on board it.

  • Reviewed January 18, 1999 / Posted on January 19, 1999

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