Strange Days
1995
Ex-cop Lenny Nero is a pusher of potent (and illegal) virtual-reality clips, peddling sex and violence to the masses in Los Angeles. But when a high-profile murder shows up in his collection, Lenny finds himself ensnared in a fast-paced manhunt.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

You never know when a movie's going to get to you. I rented this one on a whim, having enjoyed other films by Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron (who hasn't?), but I was not prepared for the mental experience of watching it. This film comes stuffed full of good ideas, both technical and technological. I refer you to the major critics if you want an academic dissection of how Bigelow uses virtual reality to break the fourth wall of cinema and comment on the thriller genre. But the visceral impact of her rape-murder sequence is stomach-turning, producing its effect by making us watch the emotional response of a person watching it, getting the same mileage out of mere suggestion that "Irréversible" went to great lengths to demonstrate graphically on screen. For me the biggest thrills were the filmmaking tricks, as Bigelow's POV camera snakes its way through the city, from one hotel ledge to another, from a rooftop to the street below. It took three years to plan these sequences, and they make the film even without other glorious images like the millennial street celebration. It's a minor letdown that the second half of the film isn't as good as the first, settling into off-the-shelf thriller conventions and abusing the economy of characters, but I was taken by surprise at just how emotionally invested I was during the final moments, pleading for the movie to end on the right note. Some viewers found the dialogue cheesy and the film's timeline preposterous (is it not obvious this is an alternate Earth, people?), enough viewers that I can't recommend this film to everyone. But if you're willing to tolerate implausibility as the price of thought-provoking science-fiction, or if you merely enjoy the high-wire acts that most Bigelow and Cameron films are, this is a film to experience.

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