Strange Days


Viewed – 02 February 2012  Blu-ray

German import review

Kathryn Bigelow may be more known these days for her Oscar-winning war movie The Hurt Locker, but once upon a time, she was one of the coolest directors around, responsible for the likes of vampire classic Near Dark, Keanu Reeves & Patrick Swayze thriller Point Break, and also this much underrated techno-thriller.  Based on a story by her then husband James Cameron (Terminator 2, Avatar) this tells the story of former cop turned dealer Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) who instead of pedaling drugs, peddles ‘clips’; fragments of other people’s experiences recorded by a black market device known as the squib, and sold in clubs to rich business men.  He offers people the chance to experience things they would not normally experience, such as sex or armed robbery.  He’s the santa clause of the subconscious.  However, when a famous politically-themed rapper is murdered, events spiral out of control as a desperate hooker and two psychotic cops become involved and soon Lenny is racing against time to piece together the clues, as the clock ticks ever closer to the millennium.

At the time this was released (1995), there was much speculation about what the new century would bring, what would change, the millennium bug and everything that came with it.  Several other movies followed similar themes, but none did it in such a stylish, controversial and accomplished way as this.  The story tackles themes of racial tension, sex, violence, technology and love with intelligence.  At times some of the dialogue is a little too cool sounding to be convincing, and it does get quite complicated during its 2hr 20 minute running time.  Also some of the more controversial moments, like a first-person-perspective rape sequence, sit uneasily within the otherwise ‘cool’ vibe.  Yet the performances from not only Ralph Fiennes (playing against type), but also Angela Bassett, Tom Sizemore and a wonderfully sleazy Juliette Lewis (showing off a powerful rock chick persona) impress regardless.  Yet above all this is Bigelow’s show, and her direction is classy and confident.  She’s an incredible action director and with a daring but brilliantly written script to bounce her (ahead of its time) camera-trickery and booming soundtrack off, this remains one of those movies, that for me … made the nineties.

Strange Days hasn’t always been treated the best, with an almost bare-bones DVD version previously, boasting a pointless 40 minute commentary from the director and a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer … and at the time of writing, has yet to get a major release on Blu-ray.  Thankfully German label Kinowelt Home Entertainment has seen fit to release the movie as part of their Blu Cinematech label, in deluxe gate-fold packaging and with behind the scenes featurettes, a music video and a photo gallery.  Best of all the movie has been treated to a decent HD transfer that really upgrades the movie from previous releases, even if the mostly night time setting stops the picture from really popping.  The rock soundtrack sounds nice and punchy though and dialogue and effects are crisp throughout.  This is the kind of respect the movie has been sorely missing for years, and for now makes it the only edition worthy of your money.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5

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