As we all know, Sam Raimi is one of our favorite directors, cult films (The Evil Dead series), and blockbusters (the Spiderman series, Drag Me to Hell). Not to place criticism, but he does have a tendency to make certain films that have failed to live up the hyper-kinetic gruesome horror of his early classics, such as the ill-fated Crimewave (1985), The Quick and the Dead (1995), and most recently his prequel follow-up to the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. But he has made some really remarkable films, such as A Simple Plan (1998), and the suspense thriller The Gift (2000). As for Darkman, his 1990 cult hit, I do have to rank it as one of his better films, because it is not only an ultracool thrill ride, but also it is a film full of very riveting ideas that somehow have not been translated to the screen too often.
The film stars Liam Neeson as Dr. Peyton Westlake, a scientist who makes a new type of skin to help burn victims, particularly towards their face reconstructions. While managing this, he tries to repair his relationship with his girlfriend, Julie (Frances McDormand), as she declines his marriage proposal, yet still adores him. While conducting experiments on the skin, Westlake and his assistant Yakatito (Nelson Mashita) are severely assaulted by gangster Robert Durant (Larry Drake) and his goons. They execute Yakatito and deform Westlake by severly burning his face with acid. Luckily, Westlake survives his horrific ordeal, and looks for retribution with the aid of the skin he has developed. He discovers a new lease on life, while demonstrating he has some nasty tricks up his sleeve.
One reason why Darkman overall succeeds is because it doesn't take itself too seriously. It remains aware of its flaws, but it does better than most of its ilk when it also delivers the fun quotient. It has the same energy that made Raimi's earlier cult films so beloved. Much of the cast has a great time, but although Frances McDormand's character is rather underwritten, she does a give a game performance. Liam Neeson as Dr. Westlake definitely proves to be actor of an extreme caliber as he plays a much against type of comic book hero. The standout in the cast is Larry Drake, who gives a creepily campy performance as the villan Durant.
Once again, Scream Factory delivers another great release, especially in the special features area. It contains enough extras to satisfy even the most adrent fans. The bonuses include:
- New interview with Liam Neeson: He has pretty clear memories of working with Raimi, while providing great tidbits about the production
- New interview with Frances McDormand: She express her history with working the Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi. A few clips are presented from some of the movies she made during Darkman
- Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Bill Pope: He explains his disinterest in making the film, but provides some really excellent facts about it, as well as the optical special effects
- That Will Be Just Fine (My Name is Durant) - A great new interview with cult icon Larry Drake, as he has a blast talking about the negative effects of being stereotyped, as well as why he loved working on Darkman
- Durant's Men (Henchmen Tales) - new interviews with Actors Dan Bell and Danny Hicks, who played two of Durant's goons
- Darkman's Design (Dark Design) - new interviews with production designer Randy Ser and art director Philip Dagort talking about the film's look
- The Face of Revenge - An interesting new interview with make-up creator Tony Gardner
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Vintage Electronic Press Kit: Behind-the-scenes, posters and artwork, production stills, and original storyboards
- Vintage Cast & Crew Profiles: Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, and Larry Drake
- Vintage Making-Of Featurette including more interviews with Raimi, Neeson, McDormand, and Drake
For such a cult film, the special features are really worthwhile (albeit repetitive), and great. If you're a huge fan of Darkman, or just getting around to it, then this release will be just what you're looking for. Unfortunately, the transfer could have been much better, and there is still some noticeable flaws in the picture and sound, but for the special features alone, I give it a thumbs-up overall.