New World Disorder (1999): The Chips Are Down

Dave discovers that an ill-fitting location and some unexpected casting make for an unusual thriller not without merit.

A Dutchman, an American, and an Englishwoman go to Luxembourg…

There’s a cosmopolitan blend of talent behind NEW WORLD DISORDER, buoyed by Yorkshireman Richard Spence who, sadly, chose to skirt a chat about the picture during a recent phone conversation. A sidestep like that conjures up a degree of apprehension, but, for the most part, this high-tech caper delivers just enough in the way of intrigue and adventure.

Kurt Bishop (Andrew McCarthy) heads up a quartet of crooks who steal microchips from Silicon Valley. During their latest heist, they enter the premises of Dynaphase Systems and encounter Mark and Coltrane (Brian Van Camp and Hari Dhillon), a pair of employees secretly using their employer’s resources to develop their own top-dollar chip. However, as the robbers raid the mainframe, Coltrane attempts – but fails – to remove all of their work. On inspection, the remaining trace of what they were creating puts pound signs in Bishop’s eyes, making him determined to acquire the rest of the program, irrespective of cost or destruction.

It wasn’t always easy for the Brat Pack to shake off their wholesomeness. Rob Lowe had it made, thanks in no small part to his 1988 sex tape which seemed to do the work for him – although roles in Masquerade (1988), Bad Influence (1990), and Wayne’s World (1992) certainly showed his versatility. Molly Ringwald resorted to getting her boobs out in Malicious (1995), a so-so descendent of Fatal Attraction (1987) that went direct-to-video, but it was Andrew McCarthy who always struggled to find parts that would flex his ferocity. Interesting jobs with an air of ambiguity did come his way – not least in the shape of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s vastly underrated Escape Clause (1996) – but films like New World Disorder where he’s a bona fide bad guy are a rarity.

Complete with weighty sideburns and a labret piercing – the acknowledged accoutrements of sheer millennial villainy – McCarthy suits being Bishop. Merrily racking up a trail of dead bodies in his wake, he’s a force to be reckoned with – and the person who does so is a curmudgeonly Rutger Hauer as Detective David Marx. With a penchant for beige, brown and dickie bows, as well as a complete disregard for anything remotely technological, he’s a strangely sketched out dinosaur. Unshaven, sleeping in his office, and stashing a vodka bottle in the work fridge, you expect this grizzled cop to be a psychiatrist’s wet dream, but we never scratch the surface.

Meanwhile, Tara Fitzgerald is the link between Marx and Bishop. As FBI Agent Kris Paddock, she’s the tech savvy conduit who carries much of the exposition. Again, it’s a casting choice that raises an eyebrow, especially considering her previous form in The Camomile Lawn (1992) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996). But it’s welcome, if only for rounding out a threesome of leads as head-scratching as Luxembourg doubling for Silicon Valley.

The script is a fascinating collaboration of Jeffrey M. Smith and Ehren Kruger. For Smith, it was his sole work of fiction before becoming a documentarian and an advocate for non-genetically modified food. Kruger on the other hand was about to see his screenwriting career explode. He had received the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 1996 with a screenplay called Arlington Road, which had just gone into production as a feature around the time of New World Disorder. From there he’d be a regular at the box office, penning Scream 3 (2000), Dumbo (2019), Top Gun: Maverick (2022), and several Transformers (2007) sequels.

New World Disorder made its home video debut in Italy during summer ’99. It was followed by a British release via Mosaic, and, in America, a run on HBO that began on 3rd December. Given the picture’s relative scarcity, you’d be inclined to believe that its subsequent vanishing rests on the fact that, like the other tech thrillers of the era, New World Disorder dated as quickly as a dial-up connection. In terms of Spence, the probable cause of his refusal to talk about it is either behind-the-scenes interference or its mediocre rep. Ultimately, while there are moments of great interest, the only audience that this time-killer will really appeal to are insomniacs channel hopping in the wee hours or avid readers of these here pages.

USA/Luxembourg ● 1999 ● Thriller ● 90mins

Rutger Hauer, Tara Fitzgerald, Andrew McCarthy, Hari Dhillon ● Dir. Richard Spence Wri. Jeffrey M. Smith, Ehren Kruger

One thought on “New World Disorder (1999): The Chips Are Down

  1. Saw this movie in the early-to-mid 2000s (believe it was on the UK’s now-defunct Bravo channel) and to be honest it didn’t make much of an impression on me. Maybe a re-watch is in order? Incidentally, McCarthy gave a great villainous turn in the 1997 made-for-TV movie HOSTILE FORCE.

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