We’re continuing our exploration of charming B movies with Darkman, a true nineties oddity. This is a janky and over-the-top superhero movie with an R rating. Plus I think that the very title sounds very generic and like a cheap knock-off of more famous movies. Which is kinda true because when Sam Raimi could not secure rights for Batman or The Shadow, he decided to make his own superhero movie. With blackjack and hookers. OK, OK, maybe there aren’t any hookers or blackjack in this movie but there are plenty of other things that make it worth your attention.
First of all, the makeup done by Tony Gardner was simply stunning and very believable. At some points, Darkman looks more like a horror movie because of it. The action is that Raimi trademark mixture of silly and violent, something he perfected in the Evil Dead franchise. Secondly, we have the opportunity to see Liam Neeson at the start of his career in a strange role of a literally good mad scientist. His overacting here was appropriate and at times too real, adding more to that horror vibe I was mentioning earlier.
His girlfriend is none other than Frances motherfucking McDormand again in a role uncharacteristic for her. This doesn’t mean that she was bad, because she wasn’t. Actually, it was really refreshing to see her with accentuated femininity as the smart and good-looking lawyer caught up in the middle of it. Despite his imposing presence, I think that Larry Drake was miscast as Durant. He has more of a henchman qualities and for our main villain, we needed someone cranked up to a hundred and ten.
Dr. Peyton Westlake is so close to achieving something never done before. He’s trying to make artificial skin for burn victims along with his assistant Yakitito. In the meantime, his girlfriend Julie Hastings finds some incriminating documents accusing a big corporation of fraud. She’s a lawyer and decides to let this one slide and not to get involved in the whole thing. However, the bad guys decide to go after her after all and wind up at Peyton’s laboratory where things go horribly wrong for him. Barely alive and disfigured, he starts plotting his revenge…
Darkman was a huge financial success despite its small budget and R rating. Probably because of the VHS boom of the early nineties. This is a movie where Raimi toyed with different concepts he will eventually use in the Spiderman franchise some ten years later. The pacing is excellent and the movie relentlessly just keeps throwing stuff at you. We will have fights, shootouts, explosions, and all the usual tropes that come with this genre. The whole thing is quite entertaining. I also liked the focus on the characters and not the action with a lot of strong emotions involved. You really feel for our main characters and can relate to this great sense of injustice and vengeance.
So, if you’re looking for a different type of superhero movie, check out Darkman. You also might take a look at Dollman, Albery Pyun extravaganza that came out one year later. Enjoy.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Nelson Mashita
Fun Facts: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, close friends of Sam Raimi, did some uncredited doctoring on the finished script.