Strange Days
Dir: Kathryn Bigelow
Star: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1995
Format: Video

Lenny is a dealer in clips. Clips are the brainwaves of others recorded and played back so that the user can relive that experience. He peddles these sleazy pieces of others existence on the black market, however his life is about to change when he receives a clip that could ignite a race war in L.A. right on millennium eve. Now he is the target of a serial killer and on the run from the cops, it is a race to save his ex girlfriend and save the city.

Strange Days is an inventive film that has dated badly. Putting a future date on a film is always a bad idea. Once that date has passed it turns a vision of the future story into a story of an alternative past. This film took millennium eve as it's setting despite being filmed only five years earlier. Unfortunately its chaotic predictions now look a little silly. It could have so easily been avoided to, as the millennium setting is largely unimportant to the plot.

Despite this major bug bear the James Cameron script is inventive and entertaining. The brainwave recording device is a brilliant idea. It has been used to full advantage in two separate plot limes. Firstly for the killer who loops his playback to his victims so they feel what he feels when killing them, and secondly for the witness of a killing that could spark a war in the city. It is a shame then that the story never mange's to tie these two plot lines together in a satisfactory manner. They do come together but neither plot thread is given the attention it deserves so the end result is frustratingly rushed and the link a little tenuous. It may have been better if they had concentrated on only one.

The plot is not always successful the characters it produces are. Lenny proves a tragic lead being still in love with the playback of his ex girlfriend and unable to let her go. The only confusing element is his inability to defend himself, which is strange for someone who is meant to be an ex cop. Ralph Fiennes brings a lot of emotion to character and proves a likeable lead. Angela Basset also does very well as Mace a woman who life has made tough, yet who has a weakness for Lenny. Where things go a little wrong is in casting Juliette Lewis as Faith, while she is a talented actress she just isn't sexy or vampish enough for the part. Lastly a worst of all is Tom Sizemore in the most obvious and ridiculous wig ever seen. He delivers a poor performance and fails to convey the schizophrenic depth his character needed.

Kathryn Bigalow isn't the best director for this sort of film. Too much time is spent with pointless street shots or with supposed scenes of official intolerance. In a post Rodney King L.A. I can see the motivation for the race element of the story, but her directorial handling of it is clumsy and rather cliched. She does better in the action segments. The car shoot out and the final fight is especially well shot. She also handles the playback segments with a lot of style. Overall though it is a patchy performance.

Strange Days is an inventive and ambitious sci-fi story that bites off rather more than it can chew. In places it is very good while in others it is mediocre. The Millennium setting which at the time must have seemed a good idea now looks to be a mistake, this would have been far better suited to the "20 minutes into the future" setting of the Max Headroom TV series. The two plot ideas are individually good but fail to integrate in a satisfactory ending, but still the brainwave recorder is a fancinating invention. All of these points combine to make Strange Days satisfactory rather than essential viewing. It's good but not great.


New year's eve 1999. Anything is possible. Nothing is forbidden.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home