An 'Afraid of Stand-Up' and 'Film Harvest' group.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Staying Glued - Darkman

We all had movies we'd sneak in as a kid; those PG-13 to R-rated gems mum would never let us see, but we saw anyway. Whether it be at a friends house or your dad's house, those films are what made us the viewing consumers of today. A lot of people who follow this ideal list their forbidden flicks as usually "Alien" or "Batman". These were mine as well, but something that stuck more than a man in a bat suit was Liam Neeson in bandages. I'm speaking, of course, about Darkman.

What I'd expect Liam Neeson to look like on any given day.

Oh yes, Darkman. A little-known, but well-loved, 1990 hero flick directed by Sam Raimi. for those who don't know, Sam Raimi is the man behind the Evil Dead series, and most notable for every single Spiderman film. Even Three. Darkman came to be right after the filming of Evil Dead 2, and it follows the same vein: it's just plain wacky.

It can best be described as a Batman-Phantom of the Opera-Three Stooges skit crossover. It's as funny as it is dark, and is a weird concoction of both strange Tim Burton-esque stylization and unrelenting loneliness. It's the comic book hero in a Scissorhands world.

We're about to find out.

The film opens with the silliest gang bust I've ever seen in a movie. Let me try to sum it up for you: it involves two sides of a gang war, one led by our main villain Robert Durant, a busted racketeering deal, cars flying out of boxes, a wooden leg gun, two mullets and a wig, a black man to end all black men, and the most horrific rendition of "This Little Piggy" ever put on screen. And this is the movie at it's sanest. It's ten minutes of off-the-wall, bone-splintering action, and it's the prologue to the consistent ferocity that is to come.

It then turns the scene to our hero Peyton Westlake, played by a young Liam Neeson. Though you wouldn't really know that cause the man looks like he never ages. He's like Keanu Reeves, they have a permanent botox about them.

It explains quite a bit.

Westlake, along with his quintessential Asian lab mate, are trying to replicate human tissue, recreating full parts of the human body to replace noses, ears, and even whole faces of burn victims. The only problem is, the replicated tissue only lasts for 99 minutes in the light. This sets up for one of the coolest power / non-power of any human-bound superhero, at restriction. Peyton's also married to the chick from Fargo, diving through a two-minute romance that is sure to end in a fiery death. A death made possible by our Durant, the psycho from the gang bust.

The whole drive to the plot of the villains, what makes them chase down Westlake, fry apart everything he loves, take his life and identity in the end, murder and destroy a lot of innocents is: real estate. The gangsters, and Durant, are in it for a fine piece of beach-front property. A little slack in the plot, but not totally diminishing of the entire movie.

"You gots a problem with the two-story? My friend Tony here says otherwise."

So they almost kill Westlake for an important memo. I won't go too much into detail, but it leaves the Asian guy dead, the lab destroyed, and Westlake in a charring mess in the hospital, now without the brain receptors to feel. Otherwise, the burns would cause him to "scream for the rest of his life".

Westlake goes back, now sporting bandages like the Phantom does masks, and picks up what remains of his lab. He sets up shop in an abandoned warehouse (cause what foreboding hero wouldn't be without a abandoned warehouse) and begins replicating human tissue again, at the hopes of replicating his face to be with his wife once more. This process, though, will take a little more than a month, so Westlake spends the time taking pictures of Durant's thugs, replicating their faces, and going on a revenge spree that leads all the way up to Durant.

You got all that? It's basically 90 minutes of Liam in a new face, impersonate gangster, get gangster killed, follow Durant. All ending at the climax: a construction site battle high above the nighttime city skyline. I won't give away the ending, like I haven't given away a lot of the plot, but it sets up for a sequel. Which happened.Twice. Don't watch either of them, they're dumber than this one.

Darkman now played by the giant sand face from The Mummy.

At only a glance, Darkman is just plain silly; and that's the fun of it. If you take it too seriously, or view it as more dark than anything, you're going to miss the whole point of it. It's bizarre, it's messed up, and it's at its core a very cool flick. Go give it a rental, avoid the sequels, and keep checking out all Raimi's films. Up to the Spiderman-era, they all follow the same brand of cookyness.

Being that that's the last word I can find for 'strange', I'm out. Stay glued.

"No! Not a sequel review! Noooooo. . ."

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