REVIEW: DARKMAN (1990)

Shooty score: 4/5 kicky: 1/5

Enjoy with: Vodka. Sip it slow and sip it long. Don’t give me your excuses that you can’t stomach it straight. Spend some pennies on Mammouth or a Black Cow vodka and enjoy some class for once in your life.


Today superhero films are beginning to feel too samey. It’s like seeing your favourite restaurant expand, opening new chains on every street while it creeps up its costs and dilutes the quality. Soon the fear sets in that you will never enjoy a meal again. Well, watching “Darkman” might be the very thing to get your taste buds back in gear. But be warned, it’s not haute cuisine but the hipster pop-up your parents went to long before long before you were cool.

The brainchild of Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), “Darkman” is the story of Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), a scientist who has just created a super skin. Unfortunately for us, a boring plot reason results in a visit from some creative gang members who leave no stone unturned in their savage onslaught on poor Westlake. He’s electrocuted, punched, burned and dipped in acid before being left for dead with a bomb. The songs of Aled Jones would have fitted Danny Elfman’s eerie score wonderfully as Westlake is catapulted out of an exploding building like a screaming fireball.

Westlake survives but is left unrecognisable. Thanks to some quick inspiration from “The Invisible Man”, he manages to build a new life as an ancient Egyptian, plodding about the streets figuring out his research.

With all the theatre and goofy comic-noir scenes you can expect from a 90’s movie coming out of the shadow of Tim Burton’s “Batman”, you can be sure every minute of Westlake’s rise from scientist to the manic avenger “Darkman” is gold dust. Where other hero films had shied away from splattering a henchman’s face under a car tire, Westlake takes the initiative with gusto.

Using his synthetic skin Westlake wraps his burnt body in several disguises that help him grill and destroy his enemies, while also trying to reconnect with his old girlfriend (Frances McDormand). Part of the film’s genius is the bonus of Westlake’s condition that makes him suffer from hyper-emotions. The melodrama is rich, culminating in a heavy moment where Westlake is so overwhelmed after winning a pink unicorn; he runs away crying while his face melts off.

The gastro snobs might scrunch up their noses at the thought of watching another movie about a hideously disfigured man who can no longer feel pain, pines over a woman and enjoys kicking the shit out of bad guys. Simmer down. It’s more “Phantom of the Opera” than “Deadpool”, but with a phantom obsessed with torture, 3D printing and wailing.

A word of advice: watch out for vodka induced heartburn and try not pay attention to the picture’s whys, hows and the reallys? The plot is thickened with dull “city planning corruption”, a waining love story and implausible scientific montages. The fibre is in the mindless violence that’s so unexpectedly gory you’ll be shitting yourself laughing the whole way through and recommending it to all your friends.

Runtime: 96mins
Certificate: 15 – Don’t try any of these recipes at home
Dir: Sam Raimi
Story: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi, Daniel Goldin, Joshua Goldin