Netforce (1999)

AKA: Tom Clancy’s Netforce
Director: Robert Lieberman
Starring: Scott Bakula, Joanna Going, Xander Berkeley, Kris Kristopherson, Brian Dennehy, Judge Reinhold
Music: Jeff Rona

Originally a two part TV mini-series Tom Clancy’s Netforce is a slightly futuristic look at law enforcement. Made in 1999 but set in 2005 (so time has already caught up with it), Net Force suffers from being padded out with family scenes and red herrings and additional footage that isn’t really necessary. Either this is to expand the mini-series to three hours or director Robert Lieberman couldn’t flesh out the more human elements of the story. All this succeeds in doing is slowing down the narrative.

What is Netforce? Netforce is an arm of the FBI that specialises in policing the internet, but also branching off into any form of computerised crime.

The opening scenes have Netforce storming a mafia wharehouse in order to secure incriminating computer files. The raid becomes a firey shootout and the files are deleted before Netforce can secure them.

In response, the mafia target Steve Day (Kris Kristopherson), commander of Netforce, in an armed assault on his car. Day is killed and leadership of Net Force falls to Alex Michaels (Scott Bakula). But Day’s murder hasn’t stopped him from being a valuable asset to Netforce. You see, before he died he set up a virtual reality website, with an artificially intelligent Steve Day. Whenever Michaels investigations aren’t progressing as well as he’d like, he pays a visit to his old mentor for advice.

As the story progresses, the evidence points in the direction of Will Stiles (Judge Reinhold). Styles is a heavyweight in computer and internet technology, and it appears that he has teamed up with the mafia to sabotage the nations security. I must admit that because Reinhold has so many successful comedic characters under his belt (such as Billy Rosewood in the Beverley Hills Cop movies) that I find him hard to take seriously. As an evil megalomaniac, his casting is almost laughable.

Some of the futuristic ideas and inventions on display in Netforce have come to pass, others are still to be conceived in the future, or are silly contrivances at best. It appears that in the future (being 2005, of course), people have their own personal websites, like the one Steve Day had set up, which can only be accessed by a small optical viewer that sits on your nose like a set of spectacles. These viewers also allow you to visit virtual reality chat rooms and brothels. As these viewers have not been invented yet, they serve to date the film.

Dating the film even further are silly pop culture references to Bill Gates and Star Wars 7 (yes 7), all of which may cause the viewer to snicker (or groan), but ultimately make it hard to believe in the universe the film-makers are trying to create. It sounds like I am being harsh and lack imagination – I want to believe, but every time the film-makers get me believing in their futuristic society, they undo their work by adding something that is very unconvincing.

Despite Tom Clancy’s name on this production, this mini-series is pretty poor. It pales in comparison with the Jack Ryan films. And for a show based around the internet, it is surprisingly low=tech visually. But this series greatest crime is that for the majority of it’s running time, it is boring. I’d skip this one.

Tom Clancy’s Net Force started out as a series of novels created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik. Although Clancy’s name is in large letters on the covers, they were written by Steve Perry. For more information on Netforce or ‘Net Force’ as it is written on the book series click here.

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