I’ve always been a huge fan of cyberpunk culture. You know, that pre-steampunk thing but not as lame? Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that the steampunk genre has taken off but it quickly devolved into a trendy fashion show with glued-on gears and useless lights. I don’t think cyberpunk ever had that issue, or perhaps it didn’t have the opportunity to get trendy enough. I mean, when a friend of mine made a cool cyberpunk glove, you can damn well believe it delivered a taser charge to the back-handed recipient on the other end. I lament cyberpunk’s lack of current day manifestations. So I have a special kinship with true cyberpunk cinema. Strange Days makes the cut and then some.
Strange Days is one of those movies that received very good reviews, has the makings of a cult classic, and no one ever talks about. It’s a good cyberpunk story. Not an epic one… just good science fiction, one which we can honestly see coming true in a future near you.
The director, Kathryn Bigelow, and writers James Cameron and Jay Cocks, do an outstanding job of building interesting characters with unfolding back stories while introducing you, in a well-paced manner, to the new world AND an actual story. No simple feat.
“New Year’s Eve 1999. Anything is possible. Nothing is forbidden.” We are first introduced to Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), a product of the current chaos. He is an ex-cop turned dealer… of fragments from people’s lives. That is, thanks to new black market technology, Nero buys recorded experiences from people and sells those experiences to others so that they can live another life. It is best said by Nero himself talking to a potential client:
“This is not like TV but better. This is life… a piece of somebody’s life. It’s pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex. I mean, you’re there. You’re doing it. You’re seeing it. You’re hearing it. You’re feeling it…
…I can getchu what you want. I can. I can get you anything. You just have to talk to me. You have to trust me. Trust me. Cause I’m your priest. I’m your shrink. I’m your main connection to the switchboard of the soul. I’m the magic man. Santa Clause of the sub-conscious. You say it… you think it… you can have it. You want a girl? You want two girls? I dunno… I dunno what your thing is, what you’re curious about. You wanna guy? Maybe you want to BE a girl. Hey. Think of that. Be a girl. See what that feels like. Maybe you want a nun to tie you up. It’s all doable.”
Nero is a troubled and broken man. He resigns himself to this existence but as the plot unfolds, he finds himself a victim of a true psychopath of the times, one that uses the same technology to kill for his own sick pleasures and has a strange obsession with Nero himself. Nero’s ex-girlfriend, Faith Justin (played by a smoking hot Juliette Lewis), also becomes involved as does everyone else in Nero’s life. It all wraps in to a greater political mystery coming to a head at New Years Eve 2000 (it was made in 1995).
The acting is top-notch and includes additional talents like co-star Angela Bassett and Tom Sizemore. The actors become the people of their reality. However, Ralph Fiennes definitely steals the show. I’d say the weakest role is actually played by the mystery psychopath. Don’t worry. I won’t ruin it.
The music fits the movie exceptionally well. It includes artists such as Lords of Acid, Strange Fruit, and even Juliette Lewis herself. I highly recommend downloading a copy in true cyberpunk fashion (yes, purchasing it is fine) before or after watching the movie.
Finally, I just want to say for those geeks familiar with the awesome-est RPG ever, Cyberpunk 2020, it seems that Strange Days is ripped right from the rulebook which includes a great representation of classes like the fixer (Lenny Nero), the solo (Lornette ‘Mace’ Mason), the rockers (Faith Justin and Philo Grant), and the rest of the techies, cops, and corporates.
Man, I really want to play CyberPunk 2020 now.
Just watch the trailer.