The film starts off very rough. It's only moderately interesting at the get-go and it really doesn't start to pick up steam until after the murder mystery aspect starts up. In fact, I didn't think I'd even really like the film as a whole for a while. But once Haysbert shows up it starts getting a little more fun. And then things get even more interesting when Gretchen Mol appears and the mystery takes its first twist. Even still, it's a slow build in the first half of the movie, keeping your interest just enough but not exactly wow-ing you with too much.
The story takes a few twists and turns as it goes along, as should any good mystery. But despite some of the bigger reveals being obvious (at least to me), I found the film still really engaging by that point that it didn't matter. In fact, I have to give the movie props for doing a major reveal at the end of the second act rather than the end of the movie, which added a whole new part of the story to explore. And whereas some of the aforementioned similar movies might explore themes of spirituality and reality, this one brings it closer to home and explores themes of life, existence, and purpose. Do these virtual world people have souls? Are they just as real as the rest of us, in essence? I really liked that aspect of the movie and how some characters might respond to that.
The acting was decent. It wasn't anything super fantastic, but it wasn't bad. It was nice to see people acting multiple personalities (since virtual world people are based on real world people... or something like that). So Craig Bierko has to act a few different ways, and he pulled it off well. D'Onofrio was, well... D'Onofrio. And he's a lot of fun, especially toward the end of the movie. The best in the flick, though, was Dennis Haysbert, who plays his detective with a real snark to him that was cool.
In the end, I know I mentioned The Matrix earlier, but I'd say this is moreso a lovechild of eXistenZ and Inception. Maybe not the action of the latter, but definitely some shared concepts. As I said, it starts off a bit rough, but after maybe 15-20 minutes, you should be at least relatively invested in the flick. If you haven't seen it and you like the ideas and concepts presented in those other films, definitely check this out. It's not as stylish, but it's still fun.
A Keanu 'Whoa'