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If you go by the title alone this could be some weird thriller starring Alan Titschmarsh and Flymo, but thankfully this film is a classic bit of cyber-punk paranoia.
A scientist called Dr. Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener called Jobe (Jeff Fahey). He puts the horticulturalist on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he develops emotionally and intellectually. But as with all scientific experiments there is a risk, and with his rising IQ he develops areas of brain that allow him to move objects with the power of the mind, and read people’s thoughts. His powers grow until his megalomania becomes psychosis, and his lawnmower comes in handy for settling a few old scores.
The plot is just an updated rift on the Frankenstein tale, but what sets it apart is its pioneering vision of virtual reality and the use of computer effects. Compared to today’s standards, the virtual reality sequences look like an old Mega Drive game, but back in the day this was as good as it got. Apart from the aging effects the story is quite gripping with Jeff Fahey transforming from simpleton to psychopath in a believable and quite terrifying manner. Pierce Brosnan is his usual charming self, but in this director’s cut we get to see more of his descent into alcoholism and the more tortured side of his personality. Also missing from the original cut of the film, but restored in this version, is a whole plot strand involving a weird cyborg monkey that is the first victim of Dr. Angelo’s experimentation. Although slightly odd, the robo-monkey gives Jobe greater pathos at they form a relationship which drives him towards his transformed state.
This special edition DVD has also metamorphosed into a thoroughly up to date disc. Animated menus and a wrath of extra features make this must have. You get the now customary deleted scenes, most of which now feature in the director’s cut of film, and a impressive Storyboard to Film Comparison. This feature illustrates that the vision of the director could not be directly transferred to the screen thanks to the computer technology of the time, and it made me think that maybe a Star Wars-style special effects makeover was what was needed. Anyway, along with these features you get the sequel Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, which adds value and entertainment to the package in spades. While more slapstick in tone than the original it benefits from improved CGI and a more adventure style story. Rounding off this excellent package is a animated montage. On the whole this is a tremendous package, much like Jobe’s lawnmower this is cutting edge.

Words: John Barker