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Great as Keanu Reeves looks in leather and black and wrap-around shades (and he does look fine), it is possible to get too much of a good thing. And at 135 minutes, The Matrix is too much… way too much. 

In fact, "Too Much," should be the real title of this never-ending mess. Too much F/X, too much noise, too much kung fu. Everything goes on forever. Only the film's editing room takes "too little" as its working motto.  

The Matrix: Death, Taxes and Acting?

There are only three things in life that we can be sure of: we'll pay taxes, we'll die sooner or later, and Keanu Reeves...

Jennifer Matarese

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Written and directed by brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, The Matrix dishes up conspiracy for the cyberspace crowd. Reeves plays a 20th century computer programmer by day and a computer hacker by night. One day his computer speaks to him -- kind of like Moses and the burning bush -- promising him a messianic future helping to save the world.  

Save the world from what you ask? Who knows? Despite endless explanations by Reeves' new-found hacker buddies and mentors, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), neither Neo (Keanu Reeve's hacker name) nor the audience truly understand the threat until close to the end of the movie. Suffice to say, it involves the-future-as-present and machines run amuck.

At least the audience has an excuse. Every scrap of dialogue -- no matter how bad -- counts in a movie as convoluted as The Matrix, but the audience can't hear most of it. The movie's overbearing score swamps nearly everything the actors say. Of course, given the pretentious claptrap that passes for dialogue in The Matrix, we could be better off not hearing them most of the time. 

In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should create a special Oscar for the actor or actress who manages to recite the most God-awful dialogue while maintaining his or her dignity and convincing us that he or she understands what's being said. Last year's hands down winner would have been Armageddon's Ben Affleck. After acting in The Matrix, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss qualify as this year's front-runners. 

Every positive element of the movie comes with a down side. Yuen Wo Ping choreographed beautifully balletic kung fu scenes that make Reeves, Fishburne and Moss look great. But the fight scenes last too long and eventually bore. 

The special effects team delivers incredible bouncing bullets, shape-shifting characters and lightning quick scene changes. But the noticeably computer-generated quality of the stunts detracts from the overall "wow factor." 

The Matrix will find its audience among teens, comic book aficionados and cyber-conspiracists. But special effects aside, this is one excruciatingly long, boring, overwrought, pretentious flick. I consider it a very bad sign when I look at my watch after the first 30 minutes of a movie and can't believe only one half-hour has passed. Or that the balancing act of Laurence Fishburne ear-wireless shades proves to be the only special effect that lingers after the credits roll "the end." 

Joan Fuchsman

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