''The Matrix'' is the most influential action movie of its generation. This is not hyperbole. It isn't even a stretch. The story -- in a future where machines have enslaved humans in a virtual reality called the Matrix, a hacker named Neo discovers that his destiny is to lead the resistance -- had seismic impact. And since the movie's release in March 1999, every 360-degree sweep of a camera, every black-clad hero, every sexy yet deadly heroine, every bullet rippling slowly through the air, is a rip-off that can be traced back to writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski. They made Carrie-Anne Moss. (''I had no career before,'' says the actress. ''None.'') They inspired the most slavish fan worship this side of ''Star Wars.'' They triggered countless pale imitations and dull-witted parodies. They were hailed as geniuses, and for a brief, mad moment, they were even blamed for the shootings at Columbine High School.
''Larry and Andrew shared some of their e-mails and showed me how it was being discussed on the Internet,'' says star Keanu Reeves. ''That's where I started to see [how big the movie was], which was a ways after it came out.''