Most killers can be stopped. But how do you stop a death-obsessed cipher that crosses into the earthly plane from virtual reality? That's the question August's thriller Virtuosity poses when Sid 6.7, a psychopathic software program in human form, breaks the bonds of cyberspace. A computer-generated teaching tool used by Los Angeles police in 1999, Sid is a composite criminal, drawing traits from 183 of history's most homicidal maniacs, from Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer--plus a touch of revered Chicago Symphony conductor Georg Solti(just because nobody's all bad).
What soothes this savage beast? His conceit "that we all want to die and he's going to help us do that," says Russell Crowe, who plays the role, putting his own spin on a plot that gives an ex-cop(Denzel Washington) the job of hunting Sid down.
Crowe, a New Zealander who riveted moviegoers as an Aussie skinhead in Romper Stomper (1993), makes a super-suave sharpie of Sid. From Solti, he says, "there's a whole lyrical part to his program that can be quite beautiful." From Mussolini he gets a taste for fine tailoring. From solid-state technology he gets a worry-free lifestyle. "He's not made of bones," notes the lank, handsome Crowe(below, out of character[my note-the pic is in the image gallery, the yellow suit one]), who was a gunslinger in The Quick and the Dead. "His infrastructure is all liquid. You can sever parts of Sid's body, and all he requires is silicon to regenerate them."
How did Crowe keep Sid's multifarious nefariousness straight? In the highest techie tradition, he reports: "I have list upon list of murders--on my laptop."