Bewildering Stories
Strange Days
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writing: James Cameron, Jay Cocks
Released: 1995
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, Brigitte Bako, Richards Edson, William Fichtner, Josef Sommer, Joe Urla, Nicky Katt, Michael Jace

Strange Days

film review by Michael J A Tyzuk

The essence of speculative fiction resides in the asking of a single question: what if?

What if the science and tech people who work for Federal law enforcement developed a technology that could read and interpret the signals that are sent to your cerebral cortex? What if these same agencies also developed a means to re-encode these signals for storage to conventional media? What if the technology somehow made it out into the open? What would happen to the world then?

The whole thing makes a certain amount of sense. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before law enforcement has to find new and improved ways of wiring undercover agents. Those means would have to be easily disguised and virtually undetectable. After all, a lot of criminals are more intelligent than the rest of the world gives them credit for, and it’s so easy to spot a microphone when you know what to look for.

That’s the premise behind the movie Strange Days.

Set in Los Angeles a matter of days before the turn of the millennium. The story is centered around Lenny Nero, an ex-cop who has become one of the premier dealers of wired fantasies. Lenny is the magic man. If you can dream it, he can make it happen. If it involves wired fantasy, then sooner or later it’s going to involve Lenny.

Lenny’s problem is that he doesn’t really have that much of a life. The last woman he was involved with left him for some kind of music bigwig but he’s still in love with her and he just can’t let go. This obsession leads to a lot of encounters with the big wig’s security people, the outcome of most of which is a ring side view of good old Lenny getting the tar kicked out of him in one way or another. The beginning of the movie gives us a very poor opinion of Lenny’s character.

All of that changes, however, when one of Lenny’s friends, a prostitute named Iris, is found killed in a hotel room. The killer sends Lenny a tape he recorded while he was killing her. Aided by an ex police buddy of his named Max and a security specialist named Macey, Lenny embarks on a quest to find out who killed Iris, and in so doing becomes involved in something a lot more all-encompassing than the simple murder of a prostitute.

The movie was released in 1995 but somehow I don’t remember seeing anything about it in the theaters. Now that I’ve seen the film I can understand why, kind of. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s also not particularly good either. I guess it all depends on what you’re after. It’s an excellent depiction of a darker side of a society that could easily be the one in which we live but, and thank heaven for that, isn’t. The characters are strong and believable and the mystery inherent in the story is plausible and engaging. However the movie is also very violent, and not just physically. There’s a lot of emotional and sexual violence inherent in the telling of the story, perhaps more than the story really needs. This is not a movie that you want young children to watch.

So, why am I using the a PG-13 web site to review an R rated movie? Because despite the darkness and violence that the writers and the director seem to revel in throughout the course of the show, the movie does broadcast a very clear message: you are looking in a mirror and seeing a vision of a society that could easily be ours. The violence and perversion that you’re seeing is a part of human nature, and something that we as individuals have to learn to keep in check if we want to continue to be a part of a civilized society. And we as individuals are the only thing that’s keeping our society from decaying to the point where we become what you’re seeing now.

It’s a lesson in what not to do, what not to become. And that’s what sets Strange Days apart from a lot of other movies of the same ilk. A lot of directors put out this kind of story and they revel in the darkness that they’re creating, and people love them for it because they love dark entertainment. This movie is dark entertainment, but it’s dark entertainment with a message and I think that’s something that Hollywood needs to do more often. I think our forms of entertainment should show us images of people who are deeply emotionally flawed, but at the same time are inherently good and honorable people. They’re people just like us, and if they have the power within them to become real, honest to god genuine heroes then so do we.

Bottom line, don’t show this movie to your children. But if you have an intelligent teenager who is capable of reading between the lines and thinking for himself then it might be something that can inspire discussion between parents and their children. Of course, if all you really want is senseless violence and action then it’s good for that, too.

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