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The F*cking Black Sheep: Virus (1999)

May. 10, 2012by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Virus (1999)
Directed by John Bruno

Pissed off robots bent on eliminating the virus of man from the planet means a lot of bloodshed.

When I think of Jamie Lee Curtis today, I think about her diet. I wonder if shes been eating properly. If she hasnt then that might explain why shes always all bound up. Its hard not to worry with all those yogurt ads where she pledges to keep us regular. Thats pretty sad really, because like an aging boxer who wont retire, now matter how great they once were, its difficult to forget the way someone was at the end. Now Id never say someone cant or shouldnt get work, but maybe find something a little more dignified. Like a credit card commercial.

We should never forget that Curtis was great for over 20 years. A bona fide star. Halloween, True Lies, The Fog, Fish Called Wanda, Freaky Friday, Blue Steele, and Christmas with the Kranks. Ok, so maybe she didnt have hit after hit, but shes one of the few actors truly with screen presence, that odd mixture of tough and sexy that Sigourney Weaver mastered. Curtis might have hid that sexy side until True Lies, but regardless, shes someone of note. If she stars, its at least worth a look whether its a yogurt ad or it's less than A level quality material. No one can fault the woman for working because sometimes if were lucky, a bomb like Virus comes along

For a lot of you under age 20, theres a good chance you missed Virus. Released in 1999, Virus came during the summer rush of end of the world films nearing the end of the century. Starring Curtis, Donald Sutherland, and sadly faded William Baldwin (cant Alec bring his brothers into the Capital One world? Dont they need some Vikings or something?), Virus is the classic horror/sci-fi hopeful big hit. Its got big stars, a remote location deep at sea, and a high concept that has the Terminator meets the Borg meets Under Siege with a generic Ripley saving mankind in place of Reese/Picard/Ryback. Each of the above formulas worked individually, so why not mesh them together?

Its a shame, however, that the producers (led by Gale Anne Hurd who co-wrote and produced Terminator among other huge sci-fi films) couldnt get enough money to avoid it all looking so cheap. Sure, the sets look good and they had to pay the cast, but like any killer robot movie, its all about the quality of the villain. And the robots here dont look so killer. Its perhaps the worst Terminator-inspired, Borg wannabe in any movie ever released in theaters. James Cameron should have sued. Now this sounds like Im trashing it, which I am, but this low-level quality adds to the enjoyment, especially when top-level stars believe in the project. Yeah, it was a payday, but they dont look like they know theyre eating a toasted shit sandwich. They think its a tuna on rye.

Virus is an easy movie to knock around because its, well, not that original. With that said, more people should dig it for whats bad AND good. The faults are easy. But believe me, there is good. For starters, the action erupts in violent bursts which keep the flick moving. Virus doesnt set itself up to have action characters as were given sailors on a tugboat, not exactly ex-military badasses, which make this a working mans film. These characters make money based on deliveries, so when they lose their payload, it makes sense that the crew becomes as greedy as John Travolta getting a massage (allegedly) when they find a ghost ship, lost at sea. It creates good motivation and an actual connection with the characters. Then theres the gore. The movie's got plenty of blood as nearly everyone gets dead at one point or another. Pissed off robots bent on eliminating the virus of man from the planet means a lot of bloodshed.

That returns us to the cast. Everyone involved must have collectively sighed when they saw the robots on set. They had to have known. But either they couldnt come up with a better idea ala Predator, or they didnt have the time or money. Regardless, its amazing how game the cast is. They act their asses off. Not in an Oscar kinda way, but theyre believable in their roles. Curtis brought all the intensity and the toughness from True Lies (with ZERO sex appeal though). Sutherland can chew up scenes like few others. As the captain, hes your standard asshole, but its amazing how effective he can be. Lastly, theres Baldwin. Despite being damn good in Backdraft, dude never found his footing in Hollywood. Or maybe he just sucks. Maybe Virus would have been a smash with Daniel, Steven, or Alec in his role of "Steve Baker" instead (even the name is bad). Well, maybe just Alec.

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1:40PM on 05/14/2012

no mention in the article...

...about the comics Virus is adapting. arm yourself with that research and the robots (and FX) become decidedly better.
i like Virus, sue me.
...about the comics Virus is adapting. arm yourself with that research and the robots (and FX) become decidedly better.
i like Virus, sue me.
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8:56AM on 05/11/2012

DEEP RISING

I'll take DEEP RISING over VIRUS any time !
Released the same year, but DR was so much FUN and didn't try to 'fart above its ass' as we say in France...
I'll take DEEP RISING over VIRUS any time !
Released the same year, but DR was so much FUN and didn't try to 'fart above its ass' as we say in France...
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10:00AM on 05/11/2012
Hells yeah! Deep Rising is fun from begining to end, very underrated and underseen. Glad to someone else digs it too.
Hells yeah! Deep Rising is fun from begining to end, very underrated and underseen. Glad to someone else digs it too.
7:48PM on 05/10/2012

curtis didnt show her sexy side till True Lies?

playing a hooker and showing her tatas in Trading Places was pretty sexy in my book.
playing a hooker and showing her tatas in Trading Places was pretty sexy in my book.
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+1
2:46PM on 05/10/2012
I don't need every movie I watch to be awesome - sometimes I just need some cheese to shut off with and this kinda movie does it for me. Had a lot of potential though but is still a fun little flick. Nice article btw, loving the love for JLC. Loving she's showing up in NCIS just now. I do miss her on screen. Thank God she's made some great movies to keep revisiting. IMO she's never put in a bad performance just the odd bad/not that great movie. I love watching her and Sigourney Weaver kick
I don't need every movie I watch to be awesome - sometimes I just need some cheese to shut off with and this kinda movie does it for me. Had a lot of potential though but is still a fun little flick. Nice article btw, loving the love for JLC. Loving she's showing up in NCIS just now. I do miss her on screen. Thank God she's made some great movies to keep revisiting. IMO she's never put in a bad performance just the odd bad/not that great movie. I love watching her and Sigourney Weaver kick ass when they've made sci-fi/horror movies but they're also really talented when it comes to comedy also (just a random thought to throw in there).
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12:49PM on 05/10/2012
Yeah, Jamie Lee considers this a turd, but I don't think that it's that bad. It's bad, but not horrible. For some reason, the film reminds me of System Shock with the cyborgs and the computer system gone amuck.
Yeah, Jamie Lee considers this a turd, but I don't think that it's that bad. It's bad, but not horrible. For some reason, the film reminds me of System Shock with the cyborgs and the computer system gone amuck.
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12:14PM on 05/10/2012
Well I actually had this movie on home video back in '99. Trust me ,its not as bad as other B-movies.The special fx were good and the action was intense. Its also one helluva thriller.Decent performances from jamie lee curtis and william baldwin too.Its one of those movies which you can watch with a bowl of pop corn on a saturday afternoon. Sad that not many have neither heard about it nor have made the effort give it a watch.Decent flick.6/10.
Well I actually had this movie on home video back in '99. Trust me ,its not as bad as other B-movies.The special fx were good and the action was intense. Its also one helluva thriller.Decent performances from jamie lee curtis and william baldwin too.Its one of those movies which you can watch with a bowl of pop corn on a saturday afternoon. Sad that not many have neither heard about it nor have made the effort give it a watch.Decent flick.6/10.
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11:58AM on 05/10/2012
I have an absolute blast on Virus. Sure it really looks like it lacked of funding but I kinda dig the robot and the special F/X in the movie. And Jamie Lee Curtis proved once again that she can be the female lead and carry the whole movie.
I have an absolute blast on Virus. Sure it really looks like it lacked of funding but I kinda dig the robot and the special F/X in the movie. And Jamie Lee Curtis proved once again that she can be the female lead and carry the whole movie.
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