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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.95%
Average: 15.25%
Pretty Bad: 20.34%
Total Crap: 3.39%

3 reviews, 41 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Stay out of the light"
5 stars

It seems a little odd to consider now, but at the time of its release in 1990, “Darkman” was simply the studio debutante ball for director Sam Raimi. Now, two decades after its moderate late-summer success, the film has grown into an interesting puzzle piece in the filmmaker’s career, bringing him from the no-budget wizardry of “Evil Dead II” to the big-budget maestro we know today. Fraught with growing pains and a few clunky ideas, “Darkman” is truly one of Raimi’s freshest creations -- a pure shot of eccentricity, barnstorming visuals, and affection for the dark side of justice.

Scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is on the verge of creating synthetic skin in his laboratory, yet chemical complications keep the faux flesh from lasting more than 99 minutes at a time. Westlake’s attorney girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) has discovered an incriminating memo during her dealings with client Louis Strack Jr. (Colin Friels), tying the corrupt land developer to ruthless gangster Robert Durant (Larry Drake). Out to retrieve the memo, Durant breaks into Westlake’s lab, thrashing the good doctor and destroying his building. Burned to a crisp and stripped of the ability to feel pain, a horribly disfigured Westlake retreats to the shadows to face his new reality, restarting his research into synthetic skin. Now armed with a series of lifelike masks and unstoppable rage, Westlake seeks revenge on those who cruelly took away his life, while watching Julie from afar, desperate for a chance to rekindle their love.

“Darkman” is a scrappy superhero origin tale of sorts, with Raimi attempting to build his own hero from spare parts, influenced by the brooding champions of justice from his own youth. The effort is sensational, showcasing the filmmaker pushing through a modest budget and resistant cast to form his own tattered vision of daredevil bravery, fueled by a sickening, churning pit of revenge. As much as Raimi is angling to kickstart a franchise here, “Darkman” is also a rare opportunity for the director to pay tribute to the great Universal Monsters of cinematic history, scripting Westlake not as a brawny man of action, but a tragic figure of perpetual agony, forced to start anew without his beloved Julie, his settled scientific mind, or a face to present to the outside world.

Raimi runs with the antihero overtones, sketching out Westlake through spectacular shadow play and gothic overtones, creating a bleak figure of science working his way up to killing Durant as a way to reclaim his life. Outside of some meat-cleaver editing jumps and a spastic use of bluescreen, “Darkman” is wonderfully bonkers in the image department -- the picture still inhaling the macabre asbestos left behind by Raimi’s eye-gouging masterpiece, “Evil Dead II.” Teeming with swirling camera work, spirited montages, and flecks of surrealism to communicate Westlake’s fractured state of mind, “Darkman” excitedly slurps up all of its Raimi foam, providing an exhaustive visual experience bursting with the helmer’s trademarked blend of the sinister and the Stooge. “Darkman” is Raimi firing away on the studio’s dime, the filmmaker unaware of the politics that would soon come to calm his once legendary eye for optical exaggeration.

In the lead role, Neeson delivers solidly as the unfortunate soul, selling all the righteous throbs of agony while maintaining Westlake’s intelligence and desperation, a tempestuous juncture captured brilliantly in a particularly bizarre confrontation between the trembling hero and a cheating carny over the rightful owner of a stuffed animal. McDormand seems more confused than torn as Julie, while submitting considerate work as the heart of the piece. Best is Drake as villain Durant, excreting oil as the heavy with a finger collection and a tremendously cool grasp of the fantastical. It’s a fun, unsettling performance.

Climaxing with an aerial confrontation that contains some tremendous stuntwork, “Darkman” ends up delivering the big action beats, successfully concluding a tricky story of revenge and shrouded destiny with a juicy conclusion of customary villain exposition and a tight bind of suspense. While rough around the edges, “Darkman” represents Raimi when he was still hungry, birthing an askew semi-horror tale with a tremendous push of screen gymnastics, taking his hero to a particular franchise launching pad that was foiled by two woeful DTV sequels. “Darkman” remains a powerful picture, isolating a pitch of superhero sadness while amplifying the rest with a comforting church-bell clang of violence. A sly Bruce Campbell cameo is merely icing on the cake.

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originally posted: 06/20/10 00:43:32
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell just ok spiderman trilogy is a lot better 3 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell just ok spiderman trilogy is a lot better 3 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell just ok spiderman trilogy is a lot better 3 stars
4/04/16 Aj wales Why are modern super heroe movies dull by comparison. 5 stars
6/22/10 Ken Kastenhuber A Raimi classic! 5 stars
2/05/08 David Cohen The way an anti-hero film should be done 4 stars
8/23/07 johnnyfog Way too comical. Which is too bad, because it could have been a really scary movie 2 stars
2/03/07 David Pollastrini great fx 3 stars
9/28/06 Sugarfoot Not nearly as fun as it should have been, although not completely unwatchable. 3 stars
9/20/06 JM Synth Blows the Spider-Man (Spidermen?) Films out of the water! Literally 4 stars
8/13/05 ES worst acting ever, spasms may occur while watching= dog of a movie (why Sam!?!) 1 stars
11/18/04 chris mess of a film.neeson OTT as darkman 2 stars
7/09/04 the bride whoever wrote that is a fuckin tool, don't review films unless you've seen them dickhead! 5 stars
4/07/04 Sig Liam Neeson's finest hour & an original and dark superhero!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/20/04 Agent Sands Pretty cool, but it CAN'T POSSIBLY be serious! 4 stars
12/22/03 Samuel I thought it was a great movie!! Sam Raimi is one of the greatest Directors of all time!! 3 stars
4/29/03 Pinkline Jones Frielsy never been better except in "Dude Where's My Bus" 5 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby An unpleasant, unwatchable botch. Atrociously developed for the big screen. 1 stars
3/07/03 Charles Tatum Average and campy 3 stars
2/03/03 Turtle Better than Batman and more fun than the first Evil Dead. Sam Raimi outdoes himself again. 4 stars
12/08/02 Michael Flynn ****: "Batman" meets "The Elephant Man", a fast-paced but VERY good superhero film 5 stars
10/23/02 palaboy101 Sam Raimi's darkest hour 2 stars
8/22/02 John Digby My advice - don't review a film you haven't seen but I hope you got one of the girls 4 stars
5/11/02 maximal01 That Bruce Campbell mask was uglier than Darkman's crispy ass! 4 stars
4/29/02 Rockitman007 A good comic-book movie. Love the Raimi shots 4 stars
10/10/01 Butterbean I laughed my ass off when Liam's ass got blown out of that building while his woman watched 3 stars
9/30/01 Andrew Carden It Just Doesn't Click...Pretty Boring. 2 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Once's Raimi...he could make shit taste good! 5 stars
7/06/01 R.W. Welch Plotline is rather good but things get steadily hokier as it goes along. 4 stars
4/18/01 sarah this is definitely NOT one of raimi's 'better' films. but it ain't bad. ain't bad at all. 4 stars
2/21/01 Steve in Prague damn teen movie critic needs to die 5 stars
1/26/01 Diego Romero Comic book type movie,what could be better? 5 stars
11/28/00 The Knowby Warrior The Greatest sci-fi action drama flick of all the times,one of the coolest character ever 5 stars
10/03/00 Steve C. ROBBIE STRANGE MOVIE ONLY FAIR 3 stars
4/24/00 SID Darkman sucked. Rent Evil Dead 2. 2 stars
11/25/99 Dr. Acula Great Flick, nice tribute to some classic horror films,great Elfman score. 5 stars
11/14/99 Lisa Solinas Fairly good--not the coolest, but cool! 5 stars
6/09/99 lucas jackson great movie, man goes for revenge on the man who fucked up his life 5 stars
4/06/99 Michael Grimm freaky 4 stars
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  02-Jul-1990 (R)


  02-Feb-1991 (M)

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