1990 comic book mayhem

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Dr. Peyton Westlake is having difficulties in his efforts to produce fake skin in his laboratory. He's also got girl problems and a funny haircut. When some bad guys blow him and his laboratory up, he repairs his disfigured face and body with masking tape and putty and wanders through the darkness to seek revenge.

This isn't a great movie, but it's still worth watching for Raimi's typical visual thrills and wry sense of humor. Raimi's superhero tale nods and nudges both the old and the new, both B-sci-fi nincompoopery and polished big-budget comic book flicks. Darkman's a ton of fun until the incoherent finale where it does its best impression of a Batman movie and bursts at the seams with nonsensical action and makes a big sloppy mess all over the screen. Liam Neeson is really awful any time his character is thrown into an unnecessary serious moment, especially anything relating to the unnecessary romantic sub-plot. For evidence, watch a scene where he gets angry after winning a carnival game and not being allowed a pink elephant for his girlfriend. During the action scenes or scenes where Neeson is alone, he seems to be channeling Raimi's boy Bruce Campbell, especially in a scene where he says, "They took my hands!" or in the carnival scene where he repeats, "See the dancing freak--pay five bucks!" ad nauseum. I really loved Danny Elfman's weird score, his trademark vocals perfect against oddball montages and Raimi camera swoops. The contrived but creative skin transplant stuff works well as Darkman ingeniously plots his revenge. It's only when the dumb action scenes stomp all over the proceedings that Darkman gets a little tiresome and typical. My favorite scene: one of the bad guys has a prosthetic leg/machine gun that he uses early in the movie. It's how the posse sneaks a weapon into the place where they want to shoot up some other guys. A few scenes later, during a scene in which it wasn't necessary to sneak a gun in, the camera pans past a guy shooting a machine gun and then continues to pan to the guy hopping on one leg while he watches. That's either really really funny or I'm drunk again.

Kairow, have you seen this one?


cory said...

It's been a really long time since I have seen this, but I thought it was an excellent, dark, offbeat action film. By the way, when you are done with your men, there is a comic-based action film called "Kickass" about which I would like to hear your opinion. Do you have a man-breakup date in mind?

This gets a 16 from memory.

Shane said...

Did you catch Kairow's thoughts about 'Kick Ass' on his blog? He writes about both the comic book and the movie.

I have just a few more "man" movies to go, and then I'll return to regularly scheduled programming.

Shane said...


Oh, there's the link to Kairow's blog post about 'Kick Ass'...

Kairow said...

Yes, I saw this in the theater. For whatever reason, it never struck a cord. It should have what with Raimi, superheroes, a guy with a trenchcoat, and such.

At the time, my youthful ernest never allowed me to get past the "they took my hands' or the dance sequence.

On reviewings, I couldn't get that original taste out of my mouth. The same way I cannot eat Spaghettios after once getting sick after eating them.

Darkman is to Spaghettios as memory is to vomit.


Shane said...

Wait...you hated the scenes I liked?

I agree about Spaghettios though. That spelling doesn't look right.

cory said...

My memory sucks. I watched this again and was a little appalled that I gave it a 16. Like the "Evil Dead" movies, the film style and acting are way, way over-the-top, but it doesn't really work in the superhero genre. Schindler is really awful and McDormand must have wondered what she got herself into (the Coens should remake this). There could be a decent story here, but it is buried beneath Raimi's bizarre presentation (I'm amazed Spiderman 2 such a good film). "Darkman" is all just a slightly distastful joke made for "Evil Dead" fans, only. A revised 13.

Shane said...

I would love to see a Coen Bros. superhero movie.

'Spiderman 2' is just slightly better than this movie. And 'Evil Dead 2' is better than 'Spiderman 2'...so is 'Drag Me to Hell,' I think. 'Army of Darkness' and 'Spiderman 3' aren't very good.

cory said...

We really don't agree on "Spiderman 2", which I consider one of the very best superhero films and give a 19 to. "Evil Dead 2 " and "Drag me to Hell" were both fun, but too silly to give them anything higher than a 15. "Spiderman 3" was a disappointment, but still gets a 13 from me. I liked it about as much as "Darkman".