Christopher Lambert as Jimi
Diego Abatantuono as Solo
Sergio Rubini as Joystick
Stefania Rocca as Naima
Amanda Sandrelli as Maria
Emmanuelle Seigner as Lisa
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 96 Minutes
This film was originally released in 1997 in pretty much every country except for the U.S.. The following is from the DVD cover:
“In the riveting style of Blade Runner, Nirvana is the futuristic thriller starring Christopher Lambert (Highlander franchise, Mortal Kombat) as a video game designer whose latest creation becomes dangerously real! At a giant multinational corporation, Jimi (Lambert) is a successful programmer excited about the launch of his realistic new game, Nirvana. But just days before it hits the streets, he learns that the game’s main character has developed the ability to think and act on his own. As this acclaimed story unfolds, Jimi must locate a hacker who can crack the company’s impenetrable data banks and destroy the program before it’s released!”
Nirvana is rated R for language, violence, drug use and some sexuality.
The cover for Nirvana declares that it is “Tron meets Blade Runner meets Matrix”. And to some extent that’s true. It features characters interacting in a video game environment like Tron. It features a virtual world where nothing’s real like in The Matrix. And it features an exotic, futuristic, metropolitan environment like in Blade Runner. But where Nirvana fails is in its story. The plot is random, at times confusing, and quite offbeat. The end product isn’t quite as satisfying as any of the movies that it draws inspiration from.
Nirvana is really two movies in one. One plot follows a computer character becoming self-aware and slowly realizing that his world is nothing more than a simulation dreamed up by a programmer. I would have accused Nirvana of ripping off The Matrix, but it actually came out 2 years before Matrix. Unfortunately, they didn’t perfect the formula. Our video game character is a fat Italian guy that isn’t terribly appealing. They portray the computer world in black and white with little bits of color. However, at other times it’s full color, so it’s not consistent. Finally, this character’s plot seems to have very little impact on the overall story other than an exploration of what is reality.
The second storyline is about programmer Jimi trying to track down his former lover and trying to erase his video game before it is released on the market. This is the core story of Nirvana and probably the more interesting of the two. Jimi and the hacker Joystick race through a Blade Runner-like metropolis with the help of another hacker, Naima. The chase is quite confusing at times and just when you think you have things understood they change the environment and situations again. The highlight of the story is when Jimi downloads the memories of his former lover into Naima’s mind. It’s an interesting twist for the characters and one that would have been fun to explore more. Instead, the opportunity is lost. They also don’t allow Jimi and his self-aware video game character to encounter each other in the computer, either. That’s what I was waiting for to happen, but they didn’t take that route, either.
The cast is OK. Christopher Lambert is decent as Jimi. I’ve been a fan of his since Highlander and Greystoke and I’ve been waiting for him to do something good since. This isn’t it. Ironically, this is a French film and he speaks French, but he redubs his own voice for the English language presentation used on this DVD. Stefania Rocca is memorable as Naima, the blue-haired hacker that helps Jimi. She’s tough and sassy. Her character also undergoes a personality change when she accesses new memories. Sergio Rubini is off the wall as Joystick, but that’s what his character requires him to be. There was nothing noteworthy in his role other than bizarre eye makeup. Diego Abatantuono plays the video game character Solo, but his performance wasn’t particularly noteworthy either. He generally runs around acting confused.
Though I wasn’t enamored with the plot, I think this was a good looking film. It was obviously done on a low budget, but they got a lot of bang for their buck. The sets are good and some of the shots with snow are quite beautiful.
Unless you’re really curious about this film or you’re a big fan of Christopher Lambert, I would recommend passing on Nirvana. I think you’d enjoy re-watching Blade Runner or Matrix instead.
There are no bonus features included on the DVD.
The Bottom Line:
Nirvana resembles a lot of other films like Blade Runner and The Matrix, but a strange and confusing plot keeps it from being enjoyable.