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 breast? 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, 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.''
Cool Tribute to Martinis and Bikinis
Island Records mogul Chris Blackwell plans to open a James Bond museum in Orcabessa, Jamaica, where Ian Fleming had his Goldeneye estate. What a stirring development!
The cool (actually ''really, really cold,'' says Mallrats director Kevin Smith) place to be this spring was Minneapolis, where Keanu Reeves, Cameron Diaz, Shannon Doherty, and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 robots came to shoot films."
Babe, the sightly sow starring in the August film of the same name, isn't one to be typecast as a wallower. She makes a dog of herself as one prizewinning sheepherder.