Dark City Review

Writer/Director: Alex Proyas (w/ Len Dobbs & David S. Goyer)

Starring: Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly

Year: 1998

In the year 1998 I saw a movie. It was a movie that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was a movie marked by distinct visual style, brilliant special effects and a heart-racing soundtrack. It was a movie that questioned the nature of reality as we know, and asked deep questions about humanity and life. My friends and I came away from it not quite sure if we’d ‘got’ all that we’d just seen, but certain that it was a remarkable and groundbreaking new standing stone in the evolution of movies.

I am, of course, talking about The Matrix… which I will never review.

What I can do is take that paragraph and apply it, word-for-word, to another film that I saw in 1998, which has since faded into a semi-obscurity, undoubtedly because the company behind it didn’t have Joel Silver heading the publicity assault on the world. Director of The Crow, Alex Proyas, brought audiences his second full length feature in the form of a brilliantly realised sci-fi, neo-noir piece. It’s a bit of a Twilight Zone, a bit of a music video (where Proyas got his start), and entirely a mystery – with trench coats and fedoras on detectives and everything.

Mr. Murdock (Sewell – an actor for whom you’ll go “Oh, that guy!” when you see him) awakens in a cooling bath tub – disoriented and with no memories. His only hints as to what’s going on are a suitcase and a dead woman on the floor of the bedroom. He goes on the lam, pursued by straight-laced Inspector Bumstead (Hurt at his monotonous best…that’s not a criticism by the way. Yeah, he’s monotonous and unemotional as an actor but…damn does he make it work) who believes he may be a serial killer. What’s going on? Why doesn’t Mr. Murdock remember his impossibly gorgeous lounge singing wife (Connelly…*rowr*)…and who are the creepy, pale men in hats?

I can distinctly remember at one point, sitting in the cinema having just finished my large frozen coke, that I felt out of breath. No, i wasn’t having some sort of panic attack or heart seizure – rather the movie was hurtling forward at such a pace and hadn’t slowed down at any point like most movies do. Now, here’s where this review gets complex: That quality of the film is not so present anymore, since they’ve released the “Director’s Cut” on DVD. My love of movies is often caught up in my nostalgia for them, and so the theatrical release will always be my version of the film in spite of its apparent flaws. Those flaws are largely corrected in the “Director’s Cut”, but at the expense of the pace and something of the feel of its original incarnation. Info on the differences between the cuts is in no short supply online – so let me make the most basic comparison:

The theatrical release contains a lame opening narration by the character of Schrieber (Sutherland) which, unfortunately, completely gives away one of the central mysteries of the film – the “Director’s Cut” has taken this universally derided introduction out, but does not capture the same energy with the new edit.

How to Enjoy it:

After spending twenty minutes in the video store deciding which cut you will watch (just flip a coin) grab a bottle of red and turn the lights out. It’s not called Dark City for nothing.

Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)

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