Remember when hacking was all fun and raves?
Long before the Kremlin hacked 2016, there was an innocent time when "Hack the World" was just a cool MTV-style trailer tag for a candy-colored hip adventure like HACKERS, a ‘90s NYC WEST SIDE STORY for the digital age featuring Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller as cyber-star-crossed rebel lovers crusading against “the Machine” man.
In a prologue we see Miller’s character (Dade) make his first splash at age 11 as the notorious Zero-Cool – a boy bandit who crashed over 1507 computer systems in a single day and tanked the New York Stock Exchange. Present-day finds a not-quite-reformed adolescent Cool living with his single mom in NYC, the new kid at school (Stuyvesant High in real life!) and still tinkering away in cyberspace (mostly through pranks like breaking into an OUTER LIMITS TV broadcast).
After being pranked by cool kid Kate Libby (Jolie) into looking for a pool on the roof (don’t ask), he makes friends with a band of misfit cyber-pranksters – the Puerto Rican Greek (Geek) chorus and NYNEX hacker Ramon "Phantom Phreak" Sanchez (Renoly Santiago), the mad teen anarchist with irreverent T-shirt and white dreads "Cereal Killer" Goldstein (Matthew Lillard) and young Joey Pardella the hacking prodigy (Jesse Bradford). Together they hang at the squat of "Lord Nikon" (Laurence Mason), play video games and plot.
When young Joey cracks "The Gibson," a fossil fuel company supercomputer, he incurs the wrath of corporate IT-guy supervillain Fisher Stevens (oh yeah!) who frames the whole gang into an international hack-espionage plot ("The Da Vinci Virus"), all to distract from Steven’s actual mundane corporate skimming-off-the-top worm program. After complaining to his painfully mismatched love interest (Lorraine Bracco), he throws all the tools of the modern prison-industrial complex at our heroes.
After a Washington Square disk-pass bust, the Feds throw Phreak into jail (never to be heard from again). When Dade re-encounters Kate (or should we say "Crash Override" meets "Acid Burn") at a rave house party and in cyberspace, they bond as a team and unite to try to vindicate Joey and save the planet. It’s a spy story race to thwart Stevens and the Secret Service and to prove the real culprit -- the MAN. United they triumph, as cemented in a real rooftop pool finale.
The movie portrays the most mundane computer coding as a kinetic virtual reality thrill ride (in that '90s way) through the digital VR roller coaster of the system that makes all stuff work. It’s also nostalgic (hacking pay phone operators) and funnily inaccurate about computer passwords (Steven informs the squares that most common passwords chosen are "love" and "god"). Boasting hammy greatness and a Penn Jillette cameo, it’s actually an absorbing NYC kids-beat-world adventure that just happens to be set in the world of bits and bytes.
Hack the World, fuckers!