Wired Up Wrong

Being a review of culty cinema

Strange Days (1995)

It’s dated badly in terms of fashion, music, and even societal concerns, being far too much a slave to the grunge aesthetic, for instance, but Bigelow’s technical ability is certainly not in doubt. What comes over is that, story-wise, it surprisingly bears some resemblance to de Palma’s Blow Out, but with an updated (fictitious) technology.
The opening sequence still stands up as a prime example of “how the hell did they do that?”- and you’re left asking that question on the basis of the filmmaking skill involved, not the application of on-screen special effects. That’s not something that happens very often (The DVD offers a so-called director’s commentary, actually just a recording of Bigelow giving a talk somewhere, and actually only covering the opening sequence, but it offers some genuinely fascinating insight).
The controversial-at-the-time snuff sequence has proper power, too- going beyond a de Palma-esque POV murder sequence and into the realms of truly questioning voyeurism, while at the same time providing a clever clue to the killer’s identity via glitches in the software recording.
There is some serious miscasting going on- in nearly every role in fact! It’s hard to argue that Fiennes is miscast, but I found him likeable anyway, despite some serious snivelling. Juliette Lewis comes off as too vacuous, too young, and too ugly for Fiennes, and making some really bad music, to boot. Michael Wincott is truly awful as Lewis’s manager. But it remains likeable, if only because of the commitment and technical imagination of the director.

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