[ISN] Mitnick movie comes to the US

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Sep 9 06:41:59 EDT 2004


[ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0002L57YQ/c4iorg  - WK]

By Kevin Poulsen, 
9th September 2004

Nearly six years after it was filmed, Hollywood's trouble-plagued 
movie version of the hunt for hacker Kevin Mitnick is headed for video 
stores in the US

Originally titled Takedown, then Cybertraque, the film is set for a 
September 28th U.S. release on DVD with the new title, Track Down.

The movie is from Miramax's horror and sci-fi label Dimension Films,
and is based on the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of
America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw - By The Man Who Did It,
authored by computer scientist Tsutomu Shimomura and New York Times
reporter John Markoff.

Shimomura electronically tracked Mitnick to his Raleigh, North
Carolina hideout in February, 1995, and sold the book and movie rights
for an undisclosed sum amidst the storm of publicity following the
fugitive hacker's arrest.

Early versions of the screenplay for the movie adaptation of Takedown
cast Mitnick - played by Scream star Skeet Ulrich - as violent and
potentially homicidal. In July, 1998, supporters of the
then-imprisoned cyberpunk rallied against the film outside Miramax's
New York City offices. Writers later revised the script, and shooting
wrapped on the project in December, 1998.

The film then languished without a US release date amid rumors of poor
test screenings and a re-shot ending. Perhaps hoping to recoup some of
their losses, Miramax finally released the movie to French theatres in
March, 2000, as Cybertraque. It was generally panned by critics: a
reviewer for the newspaper Le Monde noted the film's problems in
translating a virtual manhunt to the action-adventure genre. "Can the
repeated image of faces sweating over keyboards renew the principles
of the Hollywood thriller?," the paper asked. "It's easy to say that
the filmmaker hardly reaches that point, regardless of his saturation
of the soundtrack with rock music to defeat the boredom of the

Cybertraque was later released in Europe on DVD with French subtitles,
and enjoyed some underground circulation on peer-to-peer networks,
often misidentified as the sequel to the 1995 film Hackers.

The real-life Mitnick cracked computers at cellphone companies,
universities and ISPs. He pleaded guilty in March, 1999, to seven
felonies, and was released from prison on 21 January, 2000, after
nearly five years in custody.

Now a security consultant and author, the ex-hacker says he's not
happy to see the movie come to America. "I didn't expect the film
would ever be released to the US, so this is kind of shock to me," he
says. "I'm kind of disappointed because the film depicts me doing
things that are not real."

The fictionalized plot of Track Down centers around Shimomura's
efforts to capture Mitnick before the hacker can access a terrifying
computer program capable of causing blackouts, disabling hospital
equipment and scrambling air traffic control systems. Hollywood's
Mitnick character is portrayed somewhat sympathetically, but is prone
to random outbursts of rage, and suffers a creepy penchant for
electronic eavesdropping and a lurking hatred of women.

"You wouldn't believe the amount of emails I get from all around the
world saying, 'I saw this movie about you, it's great, you're my hero,
it was a fantastic movie,'" says Mitnick. "I'm thinking, these guys
are a little bit off... It's not an interesting film. I think it was
done pretty poorly."

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