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SNEAKERS (director/writer: Phil Alden Robinson; screenwriters: Lawrence Lasker/Walter F. Parkes; cinematographer: John Lindley; editor: Tom Rolf; music: James Horner; cast: Robert Redford (Martin Bishop/Brice), Ben Kingsley (Cosmo), Mary McDonnell (Liz), Sidney Poitier (Donald Crease), David Strathairn (Erwin ’Whistler’ Emory), Dan Aykroyd (Mother), River Phoenix (Carl Arbogast), Stephen Tobolowsky (Dr Werner Brandes), George Hearn (Gregor), Eddie Jones (Buddy Wallace), Timothy Busfield (Dick Gordon), Donal Logue (Dr Gunther Janek), James Earl Jones (Bernard Abbott), Lee Garlington (Dr Elena Rhyzkov); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Walter F. Parkes/Lawrence Lasker; Universal; 1992)
“Geriatric hi-tech action-packed spoof caper film that starts out semi-believable and ends on an unbelievable low point.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Phil Alden Robinson (“The Woo Woo Kid”/”Field of Dreams”/”The Sum of all Fears”) weakly directs and cowrites with Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes this geriatric hi-tech action-packed spoof caper film that starts out semi-believable and ends on an unbelievable low point. Sneakers, a post-Cold War thriller, at one time might have been considered a slick liberal venture into conspiracy trails, but today Sneakers can be more clearly viewed as a worn down low-tech thriller that feels uncomfortable and strained.

A group of five renegade computer hackers, all with shady pasts, who work for private corporations to do security checks, are hired by the government to steal a black box, containing a code-breaking machine, from the genius mathematician, Dr Gunther Janek (Donal Logue), who invented the device. The motley group is led by the mysterious Martin Bishop (Robert Redford). The others are Crease (Sidney Poitier), a former CIA agent who was forced to resign; Mother (Dan Aykroyd), a conspiracy theory nut and gadget maven; Carl (River Phoenix), a 19-year-old computer hacker; and Whistler (David Strathairn), a blind man who has a genius for audio technology.

The National Security Agency men blackmail Martin into doing the job because they have learned that Bishop is the alias for Martin Brice, who in 1969 escaped arrest by the FBI as a hacker because he is away getting pizza. Unfortunately his best friend Cosmo (Ben Kingsley) is caught and is sent to prison. The government boys promise to erase Martin’s criminal record and give his team $175,000 for the job. When the team successfully snatches the box, they learn that they have been duped to steal a device that is invaluable because it can infiltrate any computer encryption system in the world and that governments would kill to have such a valuable tool. Soon Marty learns that the thief behind the operation is the slimeball Cosmo, who is both seeking revenge against his former pal by framing him for the murder of both the mathematician and a Russian diplomat named Gregor and is using the device for his new associates in Organized Crime to keep the government off their backs.

Mary McDonnell is around as good ole Liz, Martin’s former squeeze who once again gets involved with him after being estranged for many years.

Sneakers was the forerunner of a series of equally weak hi-tech thrillers adapting to the computer age – The Net (1995), Hackers (1995), Mission: Impossible (1996), and Antitrust (2001).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”