Darkman 4K UHD Review: A Must-See for Sam Raimi Fans

In Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990), Liam Neeson, in his first starring action role, plays Dr. Peyton Westlake, a researcher in the world’s largest lab, who is trying to create synthetic skin for burn victims. The skin has a lot of potential, looking and acting very realistic, but always disintegrates at the 99-minute mark. There is no mention of how this scientific work is being paid for or who is funding it.

Buy Darkman 4K UHD

Peyton is dating Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), an attorney who has uncovered a memo (outlandishly called the Belisarius Memorandum) that proves a local developer, Louis Strack Jr. (Colin Friels), has been bribing the zoning commission. When confronted, Strack brags that he is creating jobs, and instead of finding a way to take Hastings out of the picture, he warns her that the local mob kingpin, Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake) is also after the…dun, dun, dun…Belisarius Memorandum.

Peyton and his lab assistant once again try to make the synthetic skin last longer than 99 minutes. The power goes out for a few minutes and the skin sticks around until the lights come back on. They now know that the synthetic skin is photosensitive, and anybody who uses it will have limited time to be in the sunlight or relegate themselves to the dark. 

Durant goes to Peyton’s lab looking for the memo. Durant’s goons kill the lab assistant and destroy Peyton’s face and hands in a vat of acid. For good measure, they blow up the lab sending Peyton through the roof, a cloaked fireball, and into the waterway behind the building.

Julie, having seen the building explode, believes Peyton is dead and doesn’t check any hospitals to follow up. In the hospital as a John Doe, Peyton has been burned beyond recognition and has the made-up treatment where they cut a cord somewhere in your spine and you can no longer feel pain. This also makes you stronger because of “adrenal overload,” or some such nonsense. From here on out, Peyton becomes Darkman, a superhero with a bit of strength, no pain, and the ability to become other people by synthesizing skin into a mask he can fit over his own face..

Where Darkman really works is in the “luck” of having a young Liam Neeson, Francis McDormand, and Larry Drake in its leading roles. Neeson is genuinely excited about the role, and his interviews in the extras show that, even decades later, he has enthusiasm for Darkman

In those same interviews, we learn that Francis McDormand felt it was very important to not be the damsel in distress, and this shows through the power she gives her character, mostly through her smoldering eyes, since that power and strength isn’t exactly there for her in the script. 

Also from the extras, Larry Drake was worried about taking on the role of Durant because his character uses a cigar cutter on his foes’ fingers, and he knew he couldn’t stand it if there was a copycat somewhere after the movie came out. He is visibly relieved that, so far, nothing has hit the news.

Bonus Features:

4K UHD Disc

  • New 4K Restoration from the Original Negative in Dolby Vision Approved by Director Sam Raimi and Director of Photography Bill Pope
  • New Audio Commentary with Filmmaker and Darkman Superfan Josh Ruben
  • Audio Commentary with Bill Pope

Blu-ray Disc

  • New 4K Transfer from the Original Negative Approved by Sam Raimi and Bill Pope
  • New Audio Commentary with Josh Ruben
  • Audio Commentary with Bill Pope
  • “Dissecting Darkman” – Interview with Actor Liam Neeson
  • Interview with Actor Frances McDormand
  • “The Name is Durant” – Interview with Actor Larry Drake
  • “The Face of Revenge” – Interview with Make-Up Designer Tony Gardner
  • “Henchman Tales” – Interviews with Actors Danny Hicks and Dan Bell
  • “Dark Design” – Interview with Production Designer Randy Ser and Art Director Philip Dagort
  • Vintage Interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and More…
  • Vintage Interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, and Frances McDormand
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Galleries – Posters & Production Stills, Behind the Scenes, Make-Up Effects and Storyboards

For Raimi fans, Darkman is a no-brainer, as it is very Raimi-esque with its over-the-top action sequences and its reliance on the latest (albeit inexpensive) special effects. The extensive special features are a fan’s dream come true.

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Greg Hammond

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