Film (1990). Universal. Directed by Sam Raimi. Written by Chuck Pfarrer, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin, Joshua Goldin, from a story by Raimi. Cast includes Larry Drake, Colin Friels, Frances McDormand and Liam Neeson. 91 minutes. Colour.
In its violence and simple, over-the-top characterization this is essentially the film equivalent of a Comic book, an "origin of a Superhero" story of sadism and revenge. Darkman, patterned on the Phantom of the Opera (with visual quotes reminding us of other early Universal Horror films), has had his face and hands horribly mutilated in a gangster attack, and the nerves that transmit pain and pleasure have been severed in hospital. He returns as a half-mad avenger. The sf element – synthetic skin that lasts exactly 99 minutes and permits Darkman to duplicate exactly his gangster enemies or appear as briefly normal to his girlfriend – is borrowed from the old sf movie Doctor X (1932). There are bravura opening and closing sequences, but Darkman is badly constructed (too many writers?) and uninvolving, lacking the insane vigour of Raimi's debut film, The Evil Dead (1982). [PN]
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