Saturday, November 07, 2009


Just saw this thing, a Sam Raimi production. It has some of the virtues of the Spidey flicks, but not quite put together.

The movie starts with a bang. A gang in a warehouse awaits the arrival of a rival gang. There are just 5 in the rival gang, and they are frisked before they meet the gang leader. A member of the rival gang has a prosthetic leg. At a key moment, one of his comrades grabs the prosthesis, which proves to be a machine gun, and slaughters everyone but the boss of the first gang. The boss is then confronted by the rival leader, who looks like a meanie, albeit an urbane one. He is played by Larry Drake, who I know was on one of those endless dramatic shows in the 90s that I never watched. He trims his cigar with a cigar trimmer, then does likewise to the gang leader’s fingers. Ouch!

And then we turn to Liam Neeson, who is a scientist. You can tell: he wears a cardigan. He and his assistant are working on synthetic skin. Neeson’s girlfriend is Frances McDornand. She’s wasted in this flick, gasping and screaming mostly. Does it well, at least. Neeson’s role is thankless, spent much of the time wrapped in bandages. Oops, jumping ahead.

Okay, plot machinations in which McDornand discovers hincty business by the local billionaire. This sends the new gang boss to Neeson’s laboratory. He and his motley crue kill the assistant and mangle Neeson, in the course of which Neeson gets dunked in the synthetic skin, blah blah blah. The laboratory blows up and it appears Neeson is a goner. Gee, short movie.

Raimi does a transition in which McDornand stands staring at the burning laboratory, then the scene changes around her and she is at the cemetery mourning Neeson. Hokey, but thanks for trying.

A much-damaged Neeson is found, tho not identified, and brought to a hospital, where an apparent relative of Doktor Frankenstein merrily experiments on him. She takes 5 minutes to map out for us how John Doe’s nerves have been derailed and as compensation he has added strength but also adrenal surges that affect his moods. He also does not feel pain. Neeson suffers the diagnosis but bursts from his bounds before the doktor could share her prognosis, but we can guess, eh?

Neeson, resembling DeNiro in Frankenstein, albeit with facial bandages, shuffles off to a spare vacant warehouse to continue work on synthetic skin. He manages to build quite a set up, and perfects the skin so that he can go out in public. Not only that, he can create perfect likenesses of other people. And so he exacts revenge. Oh but wait, the skin holds together for only 90 minutes. His public appearances and guest shots can only last that long before Dorian Gray’s picture returns.

Neeson begins by grabbing one of the gang members, who he tortures in a sewer for info on the gang. Neeson, Darkman, finishes the guy by sticking the guy’s head up a manhole in brisk traffic. Fun Fact: the actor playing this gang member is Raimi’s brother. Hmmm…

Part deux of Darkman’s revenge consists of making himself look like another gang member. As this gang member, he absconds with money that was supposed to be delivered for the boss. The boss in his displeasure exacts a compelling toll.

Darkman feels good enough about his synth skin to return to McDornand, still with the 90 minute time limit. She had a minor dalliance with the billionaire after Neeson was presumed dead, btw.

Darkman goes coocoo for Cocoapuffs at times due to the adrenaline surge. He plays around with the boss and his gang, who play back, with McDornand getting threatened and such. The movie basically goes stupid.

Practicing for Spider-man, Raimi has Darkman dangling from cables quite a bit. Turns out that the billionaire is behind the gang boss. All bad guys die but Darkman turns from McDornand because he is ridden with comic book guilt and the usual mush.

Raimi has some verve here but this is a laboured effort. It is his first big Hollywood film and I am sure he had to buck the experts in the money room. Neeson did not seem comfortable at all, and McDornand, as I said, was wasted. So, in sum, it is just another comic book angst party except, because the comic book came out after the movie, it did not have the built in excitement that DC/Marvel extravaganzas bring (if they bring nothing else). Apparently the movie was popular, but I find it comme çi comme ça.

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