If you thought "The Matrix" was an incoherent but mind-blowing experience, along comes "eXistenZ" to blow it out of the cinematic waters.
The latest offering from Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg is probably the wildest ride he's given audiences since 1992's "Naked Lunch." It also features a well-timed message about video-game violence and addiction, which helps this oddball science-fiction thriller to be his best, most resonant work in more than a decade.
Having said all that, however, the film will still probably turn off most moviegoers at least those who aren't accustomed to Cronenberg's peculiar style of storytelling, which often includes gooey, gory special effects, distorted sexuality and indecipherable plotting.
Like "The Matrix," the story line involves artificial realities. But in this case, it's virtual-reality gaming.
Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Geller, the world's foremost video-game designer, whose newest creation (the almost-too-real game that gives the film its title) has landed her in hot water with fanatical "realists."
Following a bizarre assassination attempt in which she is shot by an assailant armed with an organic "gun," complete with human teeth for bullets Allegra winds up on the run with Ted Pikul (Jude Law), a bungling security guard who becomes her bodyguard and closest confidante.
Also, Allegra's organic game unit (a fleshy device she refers to as her "baby") is damaged during their flight. To check on its "health," she and Ted enter its reality, which is also filled with danger.1 comment on this story
Not to spoil any surprises, but not everything they encounter in the game is what its seems.
Aside from topical subject matter, the biggest surprise is the film's tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
An alternatingly creepy and seductive performance from Leigh certainly helps, and Law ("Gattaca") is appropriately naive. Character actors Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe also have scene-stealing supporting roles that just add to the fun.
"eXistenZ" is rated R for gory special effects and makeup, violent gunplay and stabbings, profanity, vulgar sight gags (some sexual) and brief sex (overheard).