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So... I guess I kind of think of this as a bridge between Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" movies and his Spider-Man movies, stylistically speaking. It came out in 1990, though I probably didn't see it until 2013, when I watched it on DVD. I had a vague feeling that I could have seen it on TV at some point, but after watching the DVD, I'm pretty sure I didn't. Anyway, the DVD I got has this along with the two direct-to-video sequels, which weren't directed by Raimi. But while this movie has become something of a cult classic, I'm afraid I wasn't that into it. I mean, it was okay, but I very much doubt I'll ever want to watch it again.
There's this scientist named Peyton Westlake, who's working on developing synthetic skin. The trouble is, it's unstable, and dissolves after 99 minutes. Eventually Westlake discovers that it becomes stable in the dark, and the 99 minute time limit only applies when the skin is exposed to light. Meanwhile, he has an attorney girlfriend named Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), who accidentally comes across a memo about bribes that were paid by a real estate developer named Louis Strack. He wants to get the memo back from her, and warns her that a guy named Robert Durant (Larry Drake) would do anything to get his hands on it. Durant is actually a ruthless gangster, and he and a few of his men show up at Westlake's lab, where they find the memo and kill Westlake's assistant. They also apparently kill Westlake, so Julie will be in mourning after that, but she's comforted by Strack.
However, Westlake is actually alive, though his hands and face are horribly burned. The explosion Durant set off in his lab blew him into the river or whatever, where he was later found and assumed to be a homeless man. He was taken to a hospital, where an operation was performed that took away his ability to feel pain. Side effects of that included increased strength (because of unregulated adrenaline) and enhancement of emotions. Which basically means it's hard for him to control his rage. He soon breaks out of the hospital, gathers some equipment from his wrecked lab, and sets up shop in an abandoned building. He's able to create more synthetic skin, which can be shaped like any face he scans into the computer. This includes his own face, of course, but also the faces of Durant and some of his goons. So on the one hand, he reveals to Julie that he's actually alive, but on the other hand, he begins a crusade to take down Durant. (One thing that bugs me about the movie is, you'd expect a guy called "Darkman" to mostly operate at night, especially considering the skin would only be stable at night. But no, he pretty much only does anything during the day, so he's constantly worried about the 99 minute time limit for whatever he's doing.)
I don't want to reveal any more of the plot, but I will say it's actually not until the very end of the movie that Westlake calls himself Darkman. I also want to say this was a particularly hard movie for me to categorize. I could have put the review under "action/adventure," or "drama" or "science fiction." The possibility of calling it "badass" occurred to me, but I really don't think the action is cool enough for that. It was sort of about a superhero, but it's not a comic book movie, since Raimi invented the character specifically for the movie. I'd say it's got some vaguely "film noir" elements, and it's got a bit of a grounding in horror, but ultimately... I don't think any of those genres truly apply. So the only thing I can think to call it is "weird." Anyway... I'm not sure what to say. In a way, I found the plot more unbelievable than most comic book movies, but in a way I suppose it was also sort of more realistic. Darkman himself is definitely an anti-hero at best, and I didn't really feel like he was all that good at whatever he was trying to do. He's just this guy, you know? His story is pretty tragic, but... there's nothing really "super" about him or any of the stuff he does. And he really doesn't actually do that much. I wouldn't call any of the movie boring, per se, but... meh. I didn't find any of it that exciting, either. It's all... just some stuff that happens.
Followed by "Darkman II: The Return of Durant" and Darkman III: Die Darkman Die