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'Lawnmover Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace'

Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 13, 1996

"Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace" picks up (literally) where its predecessor ended, with the apparent death in an explosion of Jobe, the once mentally retarded gardener whose intelligence had been artificially boosted until he is not only a menace to society, but a devastating computer-generated bug ready to conquer the world through its own computers. This being genre cinema, however, Jobe has been saved by the twisted scientist Walker (Kevin Conway), who plans to reprogram Jobe in order to control the world's banking and political systems.

There's a new Jobe, with Jeff Fahey replaced by Matt Frewer, here rekindling some of the computer-generated mannerisms fans might recall from his stint as Max Headroom. The action takes place in a dark, decaying, urban L.A. that bears more than a passing resemblance to the one in "Blade Runner," and it's there that Jobe reconnects with Peter (Austin O'Brien), his only friend from the original transformation. Peter, a virtual-reality addict with several like-minded young friends, senses Jobe is either in trouble or about to become trouble, and seeks out Dr. Ben Trace (Patrick Bergin), a VR pioneer who has opted for old-fashioned reality (in part because Walker stole his patents).

Trace, Peter and Dr. Cori Platt (Ely Pouget), who is by coincidence both Jobe's doctor and Trace's old flame, end up trying to derail a potentially chaotic global interface that will turn the increasingly megalomaniacal Jobe into "the new messiah of cyberspace."

Unfortunately, director Farhad Mann can't deliver on his premises. Rather than looking particularly futuristic, the headquarters and security forces at Walker's Virtual Light Industries look like Third Reich leftovers, and neither the real-life nor the computer-generated action sequences are served up with any style (though some of the VR-landscapes are convincing). And what should be the film's crucial conflict between Jobe and Trace is undermined by the baldheaded Frewer's I'm-going-bonkers shtick and the longhaired Bergin's halfhearted commitment to save the world. All in all, this is not a Jobe well done.

Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace is rated PG-13.

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