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

Patrick Swayze dies!!


I was sad this morning to hear the news that one of the coolest actors of the eighties has passed away. 

Patrick Swayze who will be best remembered for his iconic performance in fan-favourite Dirty Dancing  … died yesterday at his home aged 57, following a 2 year battle against pancreatic cancer.   I think my favourites of his long list of movies were Point Break and the underrated Roadhouse, even though I can’t help but love that moment when he says ‘Nobody puts baby in the corner’ in ‘Dancing.  Sheer class.

Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey payed this tribute:

“When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practising the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would ever see.  He was a ‘real cowboy with a tender heart’, who was so fearless doing his own stunts that it was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified.”

Patrick Swayze

1952 – 2009

patrick-swayze

Have we met before?


Something occurred to me the other night.  I was surfing the TV channels, and stumbled upon one of my favourite movies of the 90s – Point Break.  Directed by the once talented (but where has she gone?) Kathryn Bigelow, this starred a pre-Speed Keanu Reeves, and a buffed out Patrick Swayze.  Now the reason I am writing this post, is to point out that this great action thriller bares an uncanny similarity to another more recent thriller from a few years back, The Fast & The Furious.

Now I know…how can a tale of surf dudes bare any comparison to a tale of illegal street racers?  Bare with me and I will explain.

pointbreak.jpg 

The plot of Point Break:  Keanu Reeves is a rookie F.B.I. agent who infiltrates a gang of surfers in an attempt to crack a mystery gang of bank robbers, who may or may not be from the surf-community.  He befriends the leader of the surf-dudes, Patrick Swayze, and also ends up falling for Swayze’s ex-girlfriend along the way.  At first he doesn’t suspect these clean-cut surfers, and therefore thinks the bank robbers must be the other surf gang from the bad part of town who are always causing trouble.  Then when he realises that Swayze et-al are the ones he’s after, he is suddenly forced to turn against a friend in order to do his job.

fast-furious.jpg

The plot of The Fast & The Furious:  Paul Walker is a rookie F.B.I agent who infiltrates a gang of illegal street racers in an attempt to find a gang of hijackers who may or may not be linked to the street racing community.  He befriends the leader of the gang, Vin Diesel and also falls for Diesel’s sister along the way.  He soon grows fond of the new friends he’s made and therefore thinks the dangerous Chinese gang of street racers are the ones he’s after, until he eventually discovers its really Diesel’s gang all along, and he has to turn against his friend to get the job done. 

In both films, Keanu & Paul Walker report back to an F.B.I. mentor who they have secret meetings with behind the gangs backs.  Also, Keanu is treading dangerous ground to be going with Swayze’s ex-girlfriend in the same way Paul Walker creates tension falling for Diesel’s sister.  The more I think of it, The Fast & The Furious is an unofficial remake of Point Break, with surfing swapped for street racing, to bring things up to date with what is cool and trendy.

In almost every way the two films are alarmingly similar.  I’m probably not alone in noticing this.