Dir: Sam Raimi
Star: Liam Neeson, Larry Drake, Colin Friels, Frances McDormand
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1990
Format: DVD R2

Dr Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) has almost perfected a synthetic skin formula. The only problem is in light the skin only lasts 99 minutes. Unfortunately for him this is not his only problem, as unwittingly he has become the target for crime boss Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake) and his sleazy lawyer partner Louis Strack Jr. (Colin Friels). They raid his laboratory and leave him horribly burnt. Radical treatment saves his life but leaves him an emotional wreak with an unchecked temper, super strength, and no feeling of pain. A hideous outcast from society Westlake vows his revenge using his skin formula to assume the identity of others. Now, crime has a new enemy and justice has a new face.

When is a comic book super hero not a comic book super hero? When he is Darkman, because although he bears all the hallmarks of a comic super hero (or anti hero) he was invented by Sam and Ivan Raimi. This matters not a bit as the end result is an angst ridden super hero that any comic company would kill for. Full credit for coming up with an interesting and original character that is emotionally so complex.

So far two people have played Darkman. Liam Neeson in this film, and Arnold Vosloo in the sequels. Both have been very good but Liam Neeson really shows his class. He is a big man which helps fit the role, and his portrayal of varied emotions required (underneath a ton of bandages and make up) is first class. Up against him we have Larry Drake who as Durant. He provides a sinister and genuinely scary performance as the bad guy. In fact he totally out acts Colin Friels and this is a small problem as the show down at the end of the film is with Friels and not with him. While we are talking about problems lets make in clear that although Francis McDormand is a good actress she is massively miscast in a role she is just not suited for.

What makes Darkman tick is the input of Sam Raimi. Before his more recent big budget sell out this is vintage Raimi. The excellent and quite dizzying use of the camera brings with it an effective and exciting style. The unusual point of views used (check out the dunking bird trap trigger) really hammer home the emotional content of the scenes, and this was a feature of his work of this period. Ok so all of what he tries doesn't always work (for example the explosion scene) but the overall effect is inventively excellent. If only he'd stuck to this form of direction.

Darkman is a top super hero movie. It's dark tone and emotionally scarred hero outdoes anything the Batman franchise has to offer. The action is well shot and unrelenting, the bad guy is, well, bad. Any fan of classic Raimi will not be disappointed (yes play spot the Oldsmobile, Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell). To others his style may appear amateurish and silly. Irrespective of the style the film is well worth watching if your a super hero fan. Yes occasionally the budget is rather too small and the odd effect shot just doesn't work, but the whole manages to be very much greater then the sum of its parts. The Darkman character is an excellent invention and really worthy of further exploration (beyond even the two lower budget sequels).

Lastly it is really interesting to compare his to Sam Raimi's recent super hero outing, Spiderman. Personally I think, taking account of he budget difference, it compares really well, in fact I prefer it for direction and action reasons alone. Go on watch Darkman, as in the darkest hour there is a light that shines on every human being...but ONE!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Pretty good but some print damage
Audio Dolby Surround Good Surround but no 5.1
Features Production Notes
Verdict Limited extras. Not brilliant sound or picture means the disc is a little disappointing.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home