Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin and Joshua Goldin, from a story by Sam Raimi
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake, Colin Friels
Running Time: 96 minutes
Genre: Superhero, action, horror, science-fiction, crime, thriller
Summary: Dr. Peyton Westlake (Neeson) is a scientist working on synthetic 'liquid skin'. However, one night Peyton is attacked in his laboratory by a mob led by vicious gangster Robert Durant (Drake) who enjoys cutting the fingers off his victims. Peyton's assistant is killed and the laboratory is blown up with Peyton inside. However, he survives, although he is horribly burned. After radical surgery in hospital, Peyton is left without the ability to feel pain, bursts of superhuman strength and also sudden violent rages. Escaping the hospital Peyton returns to his laboratory and resumes his work on liquid skin which allows him to impersonate anyone he chooses, as well as allowing him to appear 'normal' to his attorney girlfriend Julie (McDormand), who is also being romanced by billionaire tycoon Louis Stack Jr. (Friels). However, there is a severe drawback in that the liquid skin can only exist for a total of 99 minutes before becoming unstable and melting. However, Peyton now has the ability to take violent revenge against those who attacked him.
Opinions: This is a hugely entertaining superhero action movie with elements of horror, romance and humour. Director Sam Raimi brings the same energy and verve to this film that he brought to The Evil Dead (1983). The film was inspired by, and pays homage to, the Universal Studios horror films of the 1930s and also the pulp fiction heroes of the same period. The cast all perform very well, with Neeson in particular obviously having a great time in the central role. Horror fans will also want to look out for cameos from genre directors John Landis and William Lustig, as well as an appearance from Raimi regular and star of the Evil Dead movies, Bruce Campbell. Jenny Agutter also has a brief, uncredited role as a doctor in the hospital scene. The special effects are beginning to show their age now, but the action scenes are well staged and are genuinely exciting to watch. It's frequently very funny, but there are also some moments of real heart. Despite not actually being based on a comic-book the film does, at it's best, capture the feel and fun of them better than many other films. Admittedly there are very few surprises in the film, and you'll probably be able to work out what is going to happen well in advance. However, it is a well-paced, consistently entertaining action-thriller.
It's now become something of a cult film, and has been followed by, to date, two sequels.
Liam Neeson in Darkman