Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BMTAA #6: Darkman

Everyone does things people more or less for get about. Actors are in movies that people forget about and Directors are no exception to this rule either.

Which brings us to this week's film, Darkman.

Sam Raimi.

Ask your general nerd about Sam Raimi and they will tell you about two sets of franchises he has directed. The Evil Dead series and the Spider-Man films.

Ask a more advanced nerd, they may bring up his latest movie, Drag Me To Hell or the fact Raimi was an executive producer on Xena and Hercules.

But along the way people forget about a good chunk of movies he did that were not related to any of those films. A Simple Plan for instance is probably hands down, Raimi's best film and was even nominated for a couple of Oscars but is now more or less forgotten by the general public. There's also The Quick and the Dead, For the Love of the Game, The Gift (okay well that one can stay forgotten) and Darkman.

You see boys and girls, Sam Raimi is really a fan of comic books and heroes and after Evil Dead 2 had garnered him a bit of interest from major film studios (film companies like guys who can make a profit. Sam and producer Rob Tapert and producer/actor Bruce Campbell turned profits on both Evil Dead films...eventually). Sam was really keen on getting the rights to Batman...or maybe even The Shadow.

Unfortunately, both were taken and we ended up with Tim Burton's version of Batman in 1989 and Russell Mulcahy's The Shadow in 1994. And for the record, I like both of those films...yes I like The Shadow...yes it will appear in this column sometime in the future.

But given his jonesing, Sam and buddy Rob Tapert managed to convince Universal to give them money to do their own superhero flick.

Peyton Westlake (played by Liam Nesson, a guy who was nominated for an Oscar) is a good scientist. He's trying to help burn victims and other people fake skin by...well developing fake skin. But it has one problem. If in a light source it only lasts 99 minutes. In the dark however, it does pretty good.

Peyton has a girlfriend named Julie (played by Oscar winner Frances McDormand) who has discovered that that an evil real estate developer has teamed up with an evil mobster to bribe land commissioners to help them zone for OCP's New Detroit!...wait wrong movie....but they more or less want to build the same thing.

How bad ass are these mobsters lead by evil SOB Robert Durant (played by Larry Drake...who's never been nominated for an Oscar but he did win two Emmys)?

At the start of the movie, this mob of five guys wipes out a gang of what looks to be at least a hundred guys with a machine gun hidden in the fake leg of one of the mobsters.

Anyways the mobsters and the evil land guy wants Julie's proof so they go to Peyton's labs and smash the shit out the lab, out of him, kill his lab assistant, and then leave him to die by blowing him up.

Peyton gets blown from the lab and found. He's in the hospital for a while where they destroy the nerves to his brain that have him feel pain. This also gives him enhanced strength and the mood swings of a manic depressive emo 15 year old girl who is pms-ing.

Peyton wakes up and then goes out for revenge. he rebuilds his lad...sort of and uses his fake skin to trick the bad guys, kills them but knows he can not be with Julie until he fixes all of his skin and emotional problems.

And he has makes one mask that looks just like Bruce Campbell.

When this movie was released it did fairly well despite what reportedly was constant interference from the studio.

Where this movie is good is the idea. I love the concept behind the character. It's a little bit the Shadow, a little bit Batman with a dash of Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame for good measure. I also think the general story of the film is good for a superhero movie, especially for that time.

Where this movie is bad is the acting. yes despite all of the awards the actors I mentioned have won, the acting in this film is by in large, horrible and really over the top.

Liam Neeson for instance spends 90% of the movie channelling Bruce Campbell's Ash persona but then turns the volume up to 11. Not that I really blame him. The part was obviously intended for Campbell (who studio execs balked at) and if you need any further proof, watch the scene where Peyton is shit kicked by the mobsters and has his head rammed into variety of windows, beakers and liquids. This is obviously a traditional Raimi-torturing Bruce scene that poor Neeson still got stuck doing.

Larry Drake is probably the most solid performer in the film...I honestly can't take anything away from him in this.

The other bad is the effects and sound editing. From what I remember, Campbell mentions in the book how the film was out of money but not quite done so that explains part of it but really, Sam, you come from a big family, you put Ted in the movie, you couldn't call up the other brothers and their girlfriends to give you a hand with the adr? All you could get was Bruce?

Now maybe this isn't noticeable to someone who isn't a Bruce Campbell fan but for someone who is, you can clearly hear his yelling and screaming throughout the film.

But overall even now, the film is still fun and pretty cheap. I got it at Blockbuster, brand new in a Franchise collection with Darkman 2: The Return of Durant and Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die! (both were straight to video sequels) for a grand total of...Five dollars.

Darkman alone is worth at least $7.50

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