By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. This is the ANTI-MONITOR podcast, where we’re gonna win for you the biggest, fuzziest, pinkest animal doll on that rack. And then we gotta go. This week, the boys recount their experience with Sam Raimi’s ‘Darkman’, a Liam Neeson vehicle we’re guessing he wishes actually wasn’t.
As always, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.
ANTI-MONITOR — MATT: When Sam Raimi was a young, independent filmmaker, he established a signature tone that combined active cameras, over-the-top performances, and slapstick humor. It took 1990’s Darkman to point out that these elements on overdrive do not a giant blockbuster make. Still, Raimi’s first attempt at a big-budget Hollywood action film is an example of risk-taking seldomly seen these days, even if it is still remarkably insane.
Liam Neeson shows little of the promise of his award-worthy career in his portrayal of Dr. Peyton Westlake, shell-of-man, but he lends the appropriate level of crazy that would certainly accompany the loss of all physical feeling. Paying homage to comic books, early Hollywood serials, and classic film noir, Darkman is a hodge-podge of its influences seemingly thrown into a barrel of hallucinogens. The resultant affair is quite a bit of nonsense with a dose of heart — and a shit-ton of guns and explosions. This was Raimi’s dry-run before tackling bigger superhero fare. Thankfully he got it out of his system.
ANTI-MONITOR — JARROD: Darkman is a curious thing to behold, even today. Considering Sam Raimi has become one of Hollywood’s more successful producers, it’s tempting to view the slate of Raimi-produced horror flicks as an act of penance for being allowed to make Darkman as crazily as he wanted. (How else do you explain the Boogeyman trilogy?) To think, if this movie didn’t have a killer marketing campaign (“Who Is Darkman?”), if this movie hadn’t been sandwiched between Tim Burton’s daffy Batman movies, we might have never had Spider-Man. Sam Raimi would probably still be making gonzo horror movies in somebody’s basemen. Somehow, the world feels… less, now.
With its zany camera angles, indulgent body horror, and Danny Elfman’s monstrous score, Darkman might have been more at home under Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma banner. There are shades of Paul Verhoeven here too, what with Colin Friels’ cartoonishly sinister corporate villain, a cast of incredibly ludicrous henchmen (led with a lackadaisical smarm by Larry Drake), and a gauntlet of pain and terror for our titular hero. In fact, Darkman‘s place is right next to Verhoeven’s RoboCop. It’s a silly superhero movie with something to say, even if it never really knew how to say it.
CONSENSUS: Outrageous performances by Liam Neeson and Larry Drake, filmed through the gonzo prism of Sam Raimi’s lens, makes Darkman essential viewing for lovers of trash cinema. 4.5 out of 10
Before: “It All Ends With ‘THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2’, But Not Really,” here.
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