Darkman III: Die Darkman Die Reviews
So this time Westlake (Arnold Vosloo again) is still looking to create synthetic skin that won't disintegrate over time. He is approached by Dr. Bridget Thorne (Darlanne Fluegel) who was apparently one of the original doctors who helped save Westlake's life in the original plot (supposedly in the original movie, but obviously she wasn't in that movie). She claims that she wants to help Westlake, but low and behold she's actually working for corrupt businessman Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey) who simply wants to unlock Westlake's gift of super strength for his own devious deeds.
The start of this movie looks much like a straight to video affair which was to be expected to be truthful. If the second flick was a slightly trashy looking feature then obviously this would be no different. With both sequels directed by May you could be forgiven for thinking he made both one after the other, seeing as they start off in exactly the same way, same credits, same recaps, same Batman-esque soundtrack by Danny Elfman, same overall style etc...So in one sense, both movies are, continuity wise, very neat and tidy. All together the whole trilogy fits together nicely with the same overall visuals and atmosphere.
The actual movie is of course a golden cornucopia of stereotypical action flick cliches, positively brewing over with them. The bad guys are a small bunch of very slick, smartly dressed men with sharp haircuts. Their leader (Jeff Fahey) is a smooth talking son of a gun with a large house, loads of dosh, a hot wife, a kid and an even slicker haircut than his henchmen. His second in command seems to be homosexual but I'm not too sure how that is supposed to figure into the plot, it just seems to be there. What I did find amusing, something that you saw often in dated action flicks, was how the main bad guy lived in a large house, apparently with all his henchmen. Its like...do all these guys live together? Do these henchmen actually have their own places or do they sleep in the spare rooms? In certain scenes you would see these guys just standing around with their boss as he past the time playing his piano or watching TV or whatever. The whole thing just looks so stupid, like is that all they do all day?? Its such a weird trope of dated action flicks.
As for Fahey's villain, he's a slimeball, he treats his kid badly, cheats on his wife (his wife is naive and dumb it seems), and he talks like a gentleman even though he clearly isn't one. So yeah he's a good villain, a real grease stain with slick back hair. Darlanne Fluegel also does well as the sexy blonde villainess purely because she's a sexy blonde villainess, not much more to say there (stereotypical characters). The plot is fine but rather dull, silly in places and repetitive frankly. Naturally Westlake is still looking to create the perfect synthetic skin and naturally he's gotta fight these bad guys to succeed in getting around to that. Nothing special really, obviously he wins, obviously he doesn't manage with his ultimate goal leaving the franchise open for more. The action is fine but bland, effects are fine but uneventful except for one large explosion towards the end where I'm sure the stunt guys caught on fire by accident. It looks like the size and timing of the explosion caught them by surprise, but who knows.
This final film does really feel more like a made for TV movie than the other two. That's not to say its bad, it still carries the [i]Darkman[/i] name well and carries on with the seedy, tacky, grim, trashy atmosphere which was started by Raimi originally. The main problem is it doesn't really offer anything new, nothing fresh is brought to the table here, it feels a bit stale and lacks real bite. Nonetheless it still feels like a solid throwaway comicbook flick, an easy going Saturday night in with a takeaway type flick. As a trilogy all three films are solid entertainment, with this final film being the weakest, but its still engaging and enjoyable.
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It also has a killer villain. The first film had two villains, the most memorable of which was Larry Drake's. Drake came back in the sequel, but phoned in his performance, especially when compared to his over-the-top antics in the original. This time, we have Jeff Fahey, playing Peter Rooker, a drug lord similar to Drake's character in the first film, except there's no twist regarding whether or not he's the top dog. He seemingly owns and knows everything, and is so powerful that even his neglected wife and child won't leave him; they're too scared.
Anyway, Darkman has actually started to go through his whole "I'm going to be a vigilante" routine, and begins the film stealing money from the wrong man: Rooker. I suppose his definition of "vigilante" might be slightly different from yours, but he's morally in the clear because the money was gathered from selling drugs. Anyway, Rooker now knows about Darkman, sends a female scientist (Darlanne Fluegel) to seduce/trick him, and before you know it, the two are feuding. And "feuding" is putting it lightly, because either one is willing to kill the other if they ever meet again face to face.
Things take a more dramatic turn when Darkman impersonates Rooker and learns about his broken family life. And then, after that touching scene, a surprise birthday party brings us laughs that haven't happened since the original. A bit of humor is added here and there, and in tone alone, Darkman III feels a lot more like a sequel than the second installment.
In fact, since nothing happened in the second film that carried over to this one, it's almost like the filmmakers -- director Bradford May was behind the second film as well as this one -- decided to more or less ignore its existence. It didn't have anything happen within it that had to happen, and none of it carried over to this one. And since this was the planned second movie anyway, it makes a lot of sense that this one feels much more like a proper sequel.
Really, save for a couple of questions that could be raised at the start of the second movie, this could be set between the first and second films. 800 days passed between Drake's villain being defeated and waking up from his coma, and we don't get a sense of what Darkman was up to during that time. Maybe this would fit properly in that place. I'd have to wonder or not whether he forgot about the family he met and started to care about in this film, but considering his solitary nature, that wouldn't be hard to write off.
This is also the first chapter in the trilogy to attempt to develop Darkman as a character. It's not completely successful -- it's hard to believe that Darkman would suddenly just start caring about a mother and child out of the blue like he does -- but at least there's an attempt made here. I liked the scenes in which he and the mother or child interact, as they're sweet and sometimes funny. And seeing him start to have an emotional side -- even if it's not going to stay at the end -- is fun to watch.
Some of the scenes actually generate suspense and tension. While few of them use the time limit imposed by the synthetic skin masks, some of them actually do. That was missing entirely from the last film. And because an emotional side has been exposed, it's possible to actually care for Darkman in a way that hasn't been available to us since his name was Peyton Westlake, and he was the victim of tragedy. It makes everything that happens feel a bit more like it matters, and that's something the series has missed.
The main reason that Darkman III works as well as it does is because of Jeff Fahey, taking on the over-the-top villain role with gusto. He's so much fun, and it's clear that he's enjoying himself, that you want to watch him intently whenever he's on-screen. Arnold Vosloo still doesn't seem to be enjoying himself in the Darkman role, but he's given a bit more time to show us his acting chops, as Darkman puts on Vosloo's face more often this time around. All other roles are not worthy of mention; this is a film centered on the fight between these two people.
Darkman III: Die Darkman Die is perhaps the most enjoyable of the Darkman trilogy. Sure, it's still missing the style of Sam Raimi's original, but this one explored the emotional side of the character, provided us with a fantastic villain, and actually had a sense of suspense for much of its running time. Jeff Fahey is the main reason that the film works and is as enjoyable as it is, and if you want to see more of Darkman's story after watching the original, this is the one to go after. Skip Darkman II and go straight to this one.