Cast: Liam Neeson (Peyton Westlake/Darkman), Larry Drake (Robert Durant), Frances McDormand (Julie), Colin Friels (Louis)
Director: Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, A Simple Plan, Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3, Drag Me to Hell)
Plot: Without giving anything away, the film is about a scientist who is working on synthetic skin to help burn victims, but eventually some nefarious bad guys do bad guy things, resulting in Dr. Peyton Westlake becoming the vigilante Darkman.
Why you should watch it: Released in 1990, this cult classic is the brainchild of the brilliant and creative visionary Sam Raimi. At this point in his directing/writing career, Raimi was best known for the Evil Dead films. These, if you haven’t seen them, are irreverent horror movies that are beloved in a non-mainstream sort of way. Darkman continues this blueprint of “bad things happen” and how the main character(s) deal with them. Raimi blends humor and action in this film, giving the viewer a very rollercoaster-like experience while watching. In this regard, Raimi very much reminds me of John Carpenter; the type of director that sticks to his guns and makes very independent films released by the big Hollywood studios. Having Raimi write and helm this movie tells the viewer that it’s going to be fun, but having Liam Neeson star in the title role really cemented it in my opinion.
In 1990, Liam Neeson was best known as the sleazy director in The Dead Pool, and as Kegan in the cult movie Krull. I first recall becoming familiar with, and liking, Neeson as an actor in John Boorman’s 1980 film Excalibur. There he played Sir Gawain, the knight who accused Guinevere of infidelity. This is way before Neeson was Oskar Schindler, before Qui Gon Jinn, and much before Bryan Mills, the man with the particular set of skills. In Darkman, Neeson really embodies the role of a scientist pushed to vengeance upon those who inflicted pain and injury upon him. He blends the right amount of uncertainty, nervousness, anger, violence, and soul searching redemption. Neeson’s acting chops are a bit raw in this leading role, but I think that only helps his performance.
The film also stars the outstanding Frances McDormand as Dr. Westlake’s love interest. I swear, McDormand could act in a skin creme informercial and it would generate viewers. Here in this role she doesn’t disappoint. Darkman also stars Larry Drake as the enforcer Durant. This is a particularly curious casting choice, because at the time of the film’s release, Drake played the role of the special needs person Benny on TV’s LA Law. It was quite the shock to see him in such a violent and cruel role. The supporting cast is great, and they really help to make Darkman a great guilty pleasure.
In all, if you want to just kick back and enjoy a movie for the fun of it, you can’t go wrong with Darkman. The trailer actually does the movie justice. It really gives the feel of a Sam Raimi film.
Go watch it. It’s streaming on Netflix. Let me know what you think.