There seems to be a new genre afoot, perhaps spawned by Tim Burton's original "Batman" in 1989, and spurred forward by Joel Schumacher's "Flatliners" and come to fruition with David Fincher's "Seven." It's the new film noir, and instead of hard-boiled detectives and whores with hearts of gold, it's a bleaker world, always night, a mixture of the art deco of 1920s New York and the mean-spirited populace of a rainy night in downtown Los Angeles. Water slicks the sides of impossibly high buildings, strangers glare, sets are nailed closely together with the sort of claustrophobia that would make even the agoraphobes feel boxed in.
Such is the case for "Dark City," an aptly-named psychological thriller from Alex Proyas, the man who brought you the similar-looking "The Crow." Rufus Sewell stars as a man who wakes up "in medias res," much like a CD-ROM game, not knowing anything about himself, the women he is supposed to have killed, and the wife who still longs for him. I don't want to give too much of this away (and half the fun of this flick is figuring things out for yourself), but suffice to say there is a race of shaved, white beings who live underground with a vested interest in discovering "the human soul." Possessing incredible powers, they make things complicated by twisting and re-inventing reality so that the cards change hands every night at midnight.
There's a lot left unexplained in "Dark City," enough to be mildly frustrating by movie's end. There's also the sense that everything has been seen at some time in our moviegoing past: the churning buildings are Terry Gilliam's, the ending is brightly reminiscent of "Blade Runner," the town clock has the same powers as the clock in the Coen brothers' underrated "Hudsucker Proxy." But Alex Proyas is still a master at visuals, and until the movie gets a little heavy-duty with Genesis imagery by the end, it's an eye-popping fantasy worthy of six bucks and a rainy afternoon. With Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and Ian Richardson.
Return to Ian's movie reviews.