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Halo 5 Guardians
The Master Chief returns
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Liam Neeson
Frances McDormand
Colin Friels
Larry Drake.
Sam Raimi.
Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi
Chuck Pfarrer
Daniel Goldin
Joshua Goldin.
Running Time
96 minutes

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5 Star Empire Rating

Moody Gothic noir

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A scientist is beaten up and left for dead inside his burning lab by gangsters. He survives, and doctors remove his ability to feel the constant pain he suffers. He then uses the synthetic skin he's been working on to cover his wounds, and seek revenge on those who killed him - but can he ever recover his life?


Long before he turned his exuberant methodology — a breezy, elastic style both in camerawork and storytelling — to the high-gloss of Spider-Man, Sam Raimi did a dry-run by inventing his own superhero for this offbeam comic book movie. It is unmistakably the work of Raimi, managing that strange commingling of the upbeat and superficial with a caustic, often bleak sense of humour. Darkman has a nasty, unwelcoming core, a biproduct of the shadowy story and nonchalant style. Hence, it is his least likable film, including the ranks of Evil Deads, but there’s no doubting the imagination on show.

The twitch of the idea, its yucky hook, is that Darkman’s shifting identities — he can construct any face to fit his own scorched mien, including his own — can only last for a couple of hours before disintegrating to reveal the mishmash beneath. The sources for this shifting anti-hero are obvious: Gaston Laroux’s Phantom Of The Opera, H.G. Well’s Invisible Man, Andre De Toth’s House Of Wax. Men who wear masks to hide themselves not to become things: an interesting reverse angle on standard superhero psychology.

Part of what makes Raimi’s execution of this keen idea so leaden, is miscasting. Liam Neeson, a strikingly tall man so good for noble idealists, doesn’t fit the form of a superhero, especially one as doubly messed up as this. You need a scene filling personality, a propensity for camp flourishes, to make this character work; Raimi’s alter-ego Bruce Campbell would have thrilled to the part. Frances McDormand too, although an excellent actress, doesn’t gel with the downtrodden girlfriend role, and despite putting in hard work as the attorney caught up with shady property dealers, she too seems adrift. The film offers little to root for working through the straightforward delivery of revenge.

The bad guys, inevitably, have more fun. Raimi’s exaggerated style allow snarly gangsters Colin Friels and a splendidly vindictive turn from Larry Drake as a finger collecting henchman, to cut loose. There is, though, little room allowed for morality, visually Raimi is playing it for all its worth: the swooping camera, the synthetic lighting, the splash of loud special effects. A grab-bag of giddy exaggeration, working hardest for laughs rather than thrills, this is the superhero genre executed as B-movie freakshow.



Darkman Darkman
Released: 02 March 2000
Cast and production notes.

Certainly not Raimi at his best, but some knowing genre nods and an array of great effects make up much of the deficit.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Darkman
Empire Star Rating

A overrated movie ?

The plot is simple a scientist who is working on a project and has the perfect life a girlfriend , all is going good until he is burned alive and battered in his lab and left for dead and then comes back as a badly scared vigilante wanting revenge. Now is a overrated movie , no it is not and it sure is a classic and it defined cinema , this inspired spawn and the tone for the dark knight trilogy witch changed both the world of comics and cinema but it does have its cons like no blood shots when... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mr darkman at 11:39, 16 April 2014 | Report This Post

Empire is way off here. For Shame.

This film (coupled with Burtons Batman) is the genesis of the modern superhero genre. Raimi's Darkman can be seen as a major influence in many of todays great superhero movies. The ending of Nolans Dark Knight itself echoes the sentiments of Raimi's Darkman ending. If you havnt seen this watch it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bnicholson50 at 00:17, 15 August 2010 | Report This Post

Watched it last night for 1st time and i thought it was thoroughly enjoyable. Liam Neeson perhaps a bit miscast but he done his best. Impossible to get away from the comparisons with montages from Spiderman. The scene in the fairground at the throwing game was hilarious, if perhaps unintentional - "Take the fucking elephant!!". ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JonathanMardukas at 11:28, 13 May 2009 | Report This Post

Surely too harsh?

Ok, it's abit cheesey and dated ...but surely what Raimi has ended up with is the blueprint from the modern superhero movie!? No way would he have gotten Spider-man without this film. Ok, so maybe it never reachs it's full potential but it's damn good try and was WAY ahead of the curve. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SkullKassidy at 12:38, 02 April 2009 | Report This Post


It was certainly dated but i really enjoyed the movie! The storyline was good and the makeup effects were brilliant but it was the corny one liners and special effects that broght it down! Overall it is a good movie and worth a watch if you like super hero movies! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Chimene at 14:15, 06 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Darkman

Darkman is one of my favourite superhero movies. Liam Neeson suprisingly tried in this movie, you would think it being a b-grade he would phone it in. Did anyone else notice the re-used montage in Spiderman? ... More

Posted by Roland at 09:40, 28 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Darkman

L: Miller or he bit where Liam Neeson gets blown out of the roof of his laboratory. sp; I actually cried at this bit as I was laughing so much.py07.gif] I think I kept rewinding it back.   Awesome film. ... More

Posted by AgentGoth at 10:18, 24 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Darkman

Seriously? 2 stars for Darkman? This film is the duck's nuts so it is and given that you just gave shitty Silent Hill three stars I'm beginning to wonder if maybe you're  all  thick. I mean check out the cigar cutter, or Bruce Campbell's cameo or tthe construction site finale with the swinging hook or Darkman's mad shaking head as he turns back into himself or he bit where Liam Neeson gets blown out of the roof of his laboratory. This is great early ish Raimi and stands out as a quirk... More

Posted by Miller at 21:53, 23 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Darkman

How can you only give this classic 2 stars?iam Neeson is uber cool in this, especially when he gets twitchy and angry with everyone. Ickle Ted Raimi is in this as one of the gangsters, because he's such bad guy material with his mega tough nerdish looks.n.gif]p; This also contains the greatest cameo ever made.... Bruce Campbell.... right at the end... for all of 3 seconds. Woo! ... More

Posted by AgentGoth at 08:35, 19 April 2006 | Report This Post

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