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Strange Days

Strange Days
Sci-Fi Drama / English / 1995

Considered one of the most underrated cyberpunk movies ever made and featuring the combined efforts of James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), it's a movie I've been needing to see for a long time.

Let's have a New Years Revolution!

I'm really at a loss with this movie. Mostly because it's one of those that I really struggle to criticize. It's paced great, the story makes sense, and it manages to be really absorbing all throughout.

Here's what few things I'd consider gripes:
+ Kissing (obviously).
+ The movie opens with a high-pitched shrill that's really annoying.
+ Some characters are introduced only very briefly, but you're expected to remember them and their names.
+ Two or three scenes/shots are set up with predictable conclusions, but idle anyway.
+ A couple actors like Juliette Lewis and Michael Wincott turn in weak performances (Lewis seems stupid bored and Wincott is like if Top Dollar from The Crow smoked a cigarette factory).

That's... about it. Mostly nitpicky stuff. I can't think of much more I can complain about.

The basic premise is it's just on the eve of the new millennium and save a couple predictions of future you hear in the background, there's really only two major deviations from history:

1.) Social order is so screwed that police and military are combing the streets every night.

2.) There's a new previously military black market technology called "wire-tripping" that allows you to record your first person experiences (all senses intact) and share them on tapes. People who regularly use the technology are called "wireheads" and it's portrayed as questionably addictive as well as dangerous because applying it improperly can result in permanent brain damage.

These being the only deviations, I'm disappointed to say that it isn't really a cyberpunk movie, however it certainly manages to capture the underground aesthetic that pervades movies like The Matrix.

I won't go into the story, suffice it to say it's a murder mystery, it's complex but reasonable to follow (it does a great job telegraphing information visually), while juggling themes of anarchy, social upheaval, addiction, and "the end of the world".

Honestly, my biggest praise for the movie has got to land squarely on it's two lead characters, Lenny and Mace, played by Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett respectively.

These characters are great. Lenny's an ex-cop with little of the cop left in him and Mace seems to have picked up the formal mannerisms he's left behind.

Lenny's a talker, always trying to hit up someone new with a wiretrip and struggles to reconcile the relationship that he once had with character, Faith, who seems reluctantly over him despite us never really learning what transpired in their history.

Mace is a mother, nanny turned limo driver, who abhors wiretripping, but maintains a close, albeit strenuous relationship with Lenny. She seems like she might have romantic feelings for Lenny, but it's likely one-sided given his pursuit of Faith.

Mace is easily my favorite character in the movie. Not only does she have several moments of buttkicking badassery, but she stands out also as an emotional character. She contrasts with Lenny in her attitude, her professionalism, and her values. She REALLY IS a three-dimensional character, and I'm amazed that we finally get this from a dark-skinned woman in lead role.

Not only that, but she complements the other half of the only biracial romance between lead characters in a good movie I've ever SEEN.

She puts Rose from Titanic to shame easily, and the best parallel I can make to her is Deunan from Appleseed.

...or maybe Briareos...

Yes, imagine Angela Bassett as a cyborg supersoldier,
carrying around a little Ralph Fiennes. It's exactly like that.

All told, I'm very glad I watched this movie, HOWEVER... to earn a 5/5 from me, Strange Days has to really hit it out of the park with something that appeals to me specifically.

I don't know what that is.

Maybe I'll have to watch it again sometime and figure it out, but in the meanwhile, Strange Days gets a lean, mean...

Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]

Strange Days is one of a few movies that I REALLY wanted to love when I first saw it. I like the setting of an alternate history Millennium New Years Eve, I still really like Lenny and Mace, both their relationship and their individual characters. There's a refreshing bit of nudity in the mix I DON'T KNOW, for whatever reason I saw this once and I had that feeling that I would have to see it again after the effect had worn off.

But that was back in 2016. And we're in a post-2020 world where that national hysteria over a racialized police encounter gone wrong actually happened. So I'm approaching this with some actual exposure to the consequences of the "end of the world" riot scenario hypothesized would happen in this movie.

Firstly, it's very hard to imagine that this would would be made today without current politics taking it from a position of pre-2000s egalitarian idealism and turning it into something frankly putrid and disgusting.

There are casual comments about it being a "police state" in Strange Days, as evidenced by SWAT and the National Guard shown in random tussles on the streets in the background, often alone, or surrounded by bystanders. It's just complete chaos as though the foretold riots are already in progress. Yet, for how "oppressive" we're supposed to believe the police are, the police virtually never interfere with our protagonists beyond screening their IDs at security checkpoints... which they always pass without issue.

And the protagonists are not exactly law-abiding citizens... so it seems to me that the issue isn't actually with the police or military out in force, but the people causing them problems. Jericho One apparently can't "drive a Jeep while black", yet Mace can drive a limo without any problems at all.

And in fact the one scene at the end in which Mace is attacked by police, she is explicitly resisting arrest after beating up one, macing another, holding them both at gunpoint, and detaining them illegally!

Obviously she's in the right because these two are the cops responsible for the street execution that sets up the main conflict of the movie, but cut me a ****ing break, she's like "yeah I'll comply, but only after you let me tell you the story of my people" AMID a gigantic street celebration where you can barely hear shit.

There are how many witnesses that saw these two cops firing into a crowd and killing bystanders?? Also, aren't they trying to kill her to stop her from exposing them as murderers? And you're going to murder multiple more people in front of countless witnesses to keep it secret? ****ing idiots.

I appreciate that they make a point of showing that not all police are bad guys, and the main characters ultimately decide that discretely releasing the evidence of the execution to authorities is safer that RELEASING IT TO THE MEDIA.


I'm annoyed by the line by Mace that Jericho One is "one of the most important" people of our time when our only exposure to him suggests that he's a racebaiting gangbanging piece of shit human being who goes on television to drum up revolutionary sentiments. Making songs about how he (his people) have been oppressed for 400 years and all that.

He's really just a worthless ****ing racist and I'm glad he got shot in the head.

But of course, I'm supposed to feel differently about him because he got shot by a different racist with a badge.

It's totally plausible that this could start a race riot, there are FAR DUMBER reasons why race riots could occur. The cop could have just sat on him for about 9 minutes while some brainless twat records it on her phone and posts it to Facebook. Was George Floyd the most important man of our time? Certain oxygen thieves seem to think so.

Anyway, watching this again I felt much less engaged than I wanted to be. The wire-tripping scenes go on too long, there are music scenes that go on too long... like Lenny's literally just standing watching his Faith sing a song on stage and we keep cutting back to his blank expression. What does this add? Nothing. It's a waste of my time. If you were trying to establish that he's still hung up on her, you must not have read the rest of the script.

It's difficult to think of how I would improve his movie. I may have simply told another story entirely, where the dynamic between Mace and Lenny isn't juggled between a murder mystery and a police corruption arc.

Still like the characters, still like the setting, even still like the whole retrofuturistic concept of recording tapes of your experiences and selling them like drugs... but the rest of it (and that's most of it) I could do without.

Final Verdict: