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Twilight Man Reviews

This convoluted thriller about a vengeful computer hacker may leave some susceptible PC owners clutching their mouse-pads in terror. In THE TWILIGHT MAN and other recent chillers (e.g., DOWN, OUT, AND DANGEROUS or TAILS YOU LIVE, HEADS YOU DIE), the script's hard drive isn't rationally motivated assault but inexplicable attack. In all these films, there's a sadistic role-reversal in which a white-collar professional is outclassed by a societal misfit with high-tech know-how. In the '90s, knowing how to manipulate a computer system beats packing an Uzi. English professor Jordan Cooper (Tim Matheson) blithely enjoys his career and life with his loving girlfriend, Katherine (Catherine LaNasa). Having already driven a man named Barnes to suicide, mysterious hacker Hollis Dietz (Dean Stockwell) maliciously targets Cooper. Dietz fiddles with hospital computers until Cooper almost gets unnecessary brain surgery instead of a routine checkup. Using a computer, Cooper discovers his tormentor's identity. Police detective Lou Shannon (L. Scott Caldwell) initially dismisses Cooper's reports of Dietz's malice. Protectively, Cooper orders his sister Ellen (Yvonne Nipar) and nephew Alex (Zachary McLemore) to go into hiding. Having led Cooper to believe he was the next target, Dietz instead murders Katherine and frames Cooper for it. Using Alex's computer, Cooper deduces that Dietz was involved with the death of Barnes. He then locates Barnes' widow (Georgann Johnson), whose attorney husband took his own life. Cooper learns that his father helped Barnes try several high-profile murder cases; Cooper narrows down the firm's decades-old case list to one likely vengeful candidate, a teenager who committed parricide and was prosecuted by Cooper's father and Barnes; that teen was Hollis Dietz. After Dietz murders the widow Barnes, Cooper shakes Dietz by allowing thieves to steal his credit cards and establish a false trail. While Detective Shannon grows more convinced of his innocence, fugitive Cooper journeys to Dietz's childhood home, where he discovers state-of-the-art computers. (Convicted killer Dietz not only used his expertise to fake his prison release but is now posing as a local sheriff.) Detective Shannon and her partner arrive to arrest Dietz before the madman can do more than wound Cooper. Slickly produced for the Starz cable network, THE TWILIGHT MAN puts a fresh coat of paint on a predictable reversal-of-fortune story. In cautionary tale fashion, the viewer is warned to count his blessings lest some psychopath target him. But even though Cooper's life takes several pages out of the Book of Job, the audience doesn't tingle with any dreaded sense of empathy because the film is too farfetched to be taken seriously. Defying logic, our hero never bothers to disguise his appearance--and takes the villain at his own word for far too long. This completely ridiculous emphasis on situations that don't just suggest but demand suspension of disbelief reduces this schlocker to one cruelly simple lesson; we're positioned to relish how the decent, rule-abiding individual turns the tables on his foe by using similar high-tech tracking techniques. (Extreme profanity, violence, adult situations.)