Synopsis: Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand star in this explosive, action-packed thriller from director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man). Dr. Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is on the verge of realizing a major breakthrough in synthetic skin when his laboratory is destroyed by gangsters. Having been burned beyond recognition and forever altered by an experimental medical procedure, Westlake becomes known as Darkman, assuming alternate identities in his quest for revenge and a new life with a former love (McDormand).
What makes the difference between a good b-movie and a bad one? What makes one a pleasurable experience and the other a real tosser?
It’s hard to put one’s finger on it, but the best I can figure is: imagination and talent.
In the hands a strong creative team, a low budget is merely a challenge. Helmed by people with a lack of vision and skill, a low budget is a limitation. With ingenuity, there’s a way to tell a story with limited means. Without it, one can barely tell a story, frequently leaving the audience to fill in the gaps for themselves.
‘Darkman’ was a b-movie on a moderate budget – it was hardly wanting for cash like most of its peers. But, for the type of movie it aspired to be (a superhero action film), it was certainly short on change: case-in-point, even the lame-o ‘The Phantom’ and the uninspired ‘The Shadow’, had considerably more money to work with.
However, in the hands of none other than Sam Raimi, a filmmaker (not unlike Peter Jackson) who has frequently managed to make a lot out of not much, ‘Darkman’ works. Sure, it’s rife with holes, but they’re par for the course with the genre. Anyway, the film is so much fun that it’s easy to overlook it – especially since it’s having fun too!
I mean, really, a movie that has surrealist numbers that would make young Dali and Bunuel proud (notably in Darkman’s emotional outburst)? And there are some truly original shots, like the transition from the girlfriend right after the accident to the funeral. They didn’t have CGI to do it, so they made it with trickery. It doesn’t look real, but it’s so clever and over-the-top that you can’t care. It’s just so impressive what was done in this film – it’s the mark of a madman, a creative genius gone a little nutty.
Throw in some kitsch elements (i.e. jokes, situations, camera angles, …etc) and you have a film that really is just having a blast and doesn’t care who knows it. I think that this, combined with the emotionally tortured lead character and the revenge fantasy (I have a weak spot for those) are what appeals to me the most. Oh yeah, and I truly enjoyed its quirky humour, too. I can’t help but chuckle throughout the movie, no matter how often I’ve seen it.
Okay, okay, so I sincerely enjoy this film. I’d rate even higher if it wasn’t so full of holes. Topping it all off, I watched It on blu-ray: I have never seen this film look and sound SO good – even when I saw in cinemas way back when! The detail leapt out at me and the aural experience was a revelation. It was as though I had rediscovered an old friend.
Nice to see you again, Darkman!!