Movie Magazine International

Dark City

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

From the man who brought us 'The Crow', director Alex Proyas, comes 'Dark City', an arresting elixir one part Goth, one part sci-fi and the rest, pure fantasy.

John Murdoch wakes up in a motel bathroom with his memory completely erased ó he doesn't even know his own name. After discovering a cut-up woman in the other room, his horrified confusion begins creeping toward madness. Redefining the worn clichÈ of 'finding oneself,' Murdoch attempts to do just that, enlisting the help of his supposed wife, Emma, played smartly by Jennifer Connelly.

Murdoch is played by Ray Liotta-look-alike, Rufus Sewell, a British actor with considerable range. Along the path of clues and dead hookers, Murdoch meets the hyper-edgy Dr. Schreber, played by Kiefer Sutherland, who portrays the torn scientist with visible enthusiasm. The question is, is the stuttering Dr. friend or foe? Same goes for Detective Bumstead, played low to the ground by the infrequent William HurtÖHug him? Shoot him? We can't decide.

Turns out the entire world as they know it is a hoax, orchestrated by the hideously pale, blue-lipped, fedora-wearing underground group, called The Strangers. They're all completely bald, wear nothing but black and instead of walking, they just sort ofÖfloat. If they listened to music, Marilyn Manson and Megadeath would be the selections, I'm sure.

But they don't because they lack individuality, which is why they are studying humans, to pinpoint our magic twinkle of specialness that is so unique in the universe ó personality. Which is also why every night, they stop time for five minutes and re-arrange everyone's lives by implanting new lifetime memories and erecting new buildings like a simple board game; the city itself is a mish-mash of different eras, a bizarre result of their meddling.

It's great fun to witness a lower class couple being renovated into old-money types picking up the same conversation five minutes prior only with a newly refined vocabulary. This little trick is called Tuning and the Strangers have deemed Murdoch Enemy #1 because he's somehow figured out how to do it.

All done up with elaborate sets and impressive graphics, 'Dark City' is a comic book in film noire form which explores one disturbing thought: If the sum of our lives exists only in memories, what happens if we can't remember? Do we still exist?

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 2/25/98

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