Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dark City

Somehow this movie came and went a dozen years ago without me ever hearing of it. It starts out like a Forties film noir: a guy (British actor Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a sleazy hotel room with no memory and a dead hooker. Even not knowing who he is or what happened, he’s smart enough to figure that he needs to get out of there, so he escapes just ahead of several creepy, sinister guys in trenchcoats. Then he gets involved with a mad doctor (Kiefer Sutherland, of all people, who at times seems to be doing a Peter Lorre impression). There’s a sultry torch singer (Jennifer Connelly, as always yowza!) who may or may not be the amnesiac’s wife. The fugitive is also being pursued by a dogged police detective played by William Hurt, who believes that Sewell’s character is a serial killer responsible for murdering half a dozen prostitutes. The whole thing takes place at night, hence the dark city of the title, where the streets are always wet and everything has a sort of bizarre art deco look.

Then things start to get weird.

This is one of those movies where you really can’t discuss the plot without giving away too much for people who haven’t seen it. About halfway through I was thinking that the filmmakers should have just stuck with a straight film noir homage, the way it starts out, but by the end the rest of it had won me over. DARK CITY is a good film that ultimately makes sense, even though for a while you’ll probably wonder. The version I watched was the expanded director’s cut. Since I never saw the theatrical release, I don’t have anything to compare it with. But I liked it, and if you haven’t seen it and have a fondness for oddball movies and film noir, you ought to give it a try.

7 comments:

Vince said...

I'm a big fan of Dark City, which Roger Ebert named the best film of 1998. You were fortunate to see the director's cut first. The original version opens with a voiceover in which Kiefer Sutherland explains every single thing that Rufus Sewell will spend the rest of the film discovering for himself. Kinda takes the mystery out of it.

James Reasoner said...

Well, that would have just ruined it. The way the mystery unfolds in the director's cut is part of what makes it a good film.

Iren said...

Saw it on the big screen a loved it-- and it's one of the reasons that I never thought all the much of the Matrix when I came out.

Bill Crider said...

Judy and I saw this in the theater, with the voiceover. Still liked it a lot.

Randy Johnson said...

I saw a VHS of this way back when and enjoyed it. May have to look this version up.

Richard R. said...

Wow, this sounds really interesting! I'll see if the director's cut is available on Netflix... yep. Got it in the queue. Thanks, James.

Juri said...

I liked the first half of the film very much, but then it got bogged down. Can't remember much of the details, since I saw the film on its first run. Would like to see it again, though.