Strange Days - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Strange Days Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 6, 2008
One of my all time favorite sci fi flicks. Fiennes is awesome in this role. This movie feels so much like a possible future.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2011
Strange Days is an intense and thought-provoking cyberpunk sci-fi murder mystery thriller co-written by James Cameron and former film critic Jay Cocks, and directed by Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.

Set in Los Angeles two days before the year 2000, we follow Lenny Nero, an ex-cop turned black marketeer whose product of choice to peddle is a SQUID- a headpiece that allows one to transmit digital recordings of other people's thoughts, feelings, and memories directly into their brain. He sells both the discs, and the equipment. Sex and violence/crime are the primary subjects of request, though Lenny's one rule is that he doesn't deal in "blackjacks" or snuff clips.

When not doing his SQUID dealings, Lenny spends his time pining for Faith- his punk rocker ex-girlfriend who is now involved with a shady record executive named Philo Gant. This subplot then gets connected to the rest of the film when Lenny, after receiving a snuff clip of the rape and murder of a mutual friend of his and Faith's, gets embroiled in the resulting murder mystery, which is in turn connected to the recent death of a rapper/social activist on Gant's label.

This all sounds really convoluted and complex, but it's actually not. It's mostly just really difficult to try to easily explain without giving too much away, which I sort of already did to an extent. But not too much.

Anyways, this is a really intense and thrilling film. The basic ideas of the technology are apparently cribbed from the film Brainstorm which I have yet to see, but want to. I'm not sure how much of an input Cocks had here, but it may not have been much as Cameron also gets a 'story by' credit here. Another fun thing is to try to distinguish Cameron's style from Bigelow's. Sometimes this is really hard, but it adds another level of enjoyment to the proceedings.

The film pulls no punches when it comes to the dark and gritty subject matter and content, but mature and open minded viewers will probably find a lot to enjoy here. It's all done quite well, and comes off as earned as opposed to exploitative (and for the sake of it).

From a technical perspective, this film is a marvel. There SQUID sequences are appropriately done as POV, often times as long takes/tracking shots. The opening scene especially is quite impressive and effective. Cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti needs a friggin' medal or something.

The performances are also pretty stellar. Ralph Fiennes is tremendous as the sleazy, yet rather empathetic Lenny. As his close friend and bodyguard "Mace" Mason, Angela Bassett is amazing, and this is easily her at her most badass. Her performance is quite strong, and she pulls off the action scenes fairly believably, too. There's also Juliette Lewis as Faith, Michael Wincott as Philo Gant, and Tom Sizemore as an associate of Lenny's. Vincent D'Onofrio and William Fichtner also appear as two unhinged rogue cops. All of these people put in some decent work, and this film is another occasion for Lewis to show off her singing skills.

Which brings me to the music. The score is decent, but the non-score soundtrack is where I was really pleased. There's tons of hip hop and heavy metal, and they perfectly complement the grungy/punk aesthetics of the world building, art direction, and set design.

All in all, this is quite an amazing film. It's more than solid, though I will say that it does run on for perhaps a tad too long, and the basic plot, though decent, is unoriginal. I mean, as I mentioned, it's basically just a really dressed up murder mystery. It's still pretty great though, so I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
½ December 7, 2009
I think this really stands out as the greatest example of 90s mindset action/sci-fi. In look and story structure, it has all the elements of the time period crushed together into one extravaganza of gunfire and chaos. It's still funny how believable Ralph Fiennes is as a good guy, you'd just never expect it going in. You've also got Juliette Lewis walking around naked for pretty much the entire running time, so even if you don't like the movie there's a treat for you. One of its other standout contributors is the incredibly under-appreciated villain of the 90s, Michael Wincott. This movie really does have a lot to say about the future of society and pop culture, but it does so in a way that doesn't come off as heavy handed. While it has the shortcomings of being almost too 90s for its own good, the majority of this movie is just amazing. After seeing it a few times, even the not-so-lovable elements seem to disappear.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2009
The who-dun-it part is quite predictable, but overall, the movie is fairly watchable.
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2010
A kinetic, stylish, sexy and mind-blowing action-packed thriller. It's electrifying and pulse-pounding all the way to the end. A dazzlingly original, hard-rocking, hard-boiled and wickedly entertaining thrill-ride. An absolute triumph from Director, Kathryn Bigelow and Writer/Producer James Cameron. A stunningly well-crafted and superbly performed film. It's astonishing, remarkable, compelling and exhilarating. A kick ass adrenaline-rush that just flat-out rocks. It's loaded with tremendous suspense, thrilling excitement and explosive action. A spectacular and unforgettable movie. Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett give excellent performances.
Super Reviewer
½ November 23, 2009
Strange Days is a truly astonishing science fiction offering, part scripted by James Cameron and directed with relentless panache by maverick lady-director Kathryn Bigelow. It presents a depressing and bleak, yet worryingly probable, view of the near future, and hooks its story threads upon the impending millennium eve celebrations. Although December 31st, 1999, has been and gone since the making of this movie, it is a credit to the makers that this film still offers a plausible viewpoint about where the world might be at in the next decade or so.

Ralph Fiennes seems initially miscast, but soon wins over the audience as Lenny Nero, a sleazy racketeer who sells "memories" captured on some form of disk, similar to virtual reality but recorded from real experiences rather than computerised ones. He is desperately trying to get back with his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis), but she doesn't want him as she has hooked up with a music producer named Philo (Michael Wincott). Lenny acquires two disturbing tapes, one showing the rape and murder of a woman, the other showing a racially motivated slaying, and before he knows it he is on the run from the culprits who want to kill him before he exposes their crimes. The only person he can trust is his best friend, lady bodyguard Mace (Angela Bassett). To complicate matters further, his ex-girlfriend Faith seems to know something about the disks, and may either be involved in the crimes or at great risk from those responsible.

Bassett is the real star here, in the role of a lifetime as a morally strong and physically stronger heroine. Lewis plays the same old white trash girl she has played many times, but at least she has the experience to bring total conviction to the role. The production values are incredibly high, especially the party at the end which seems to realistically convey an entire city celebrating in the streets. The plot unfolds slowly, but this is a strength rather than a criticism. Each new development slots into place beautifully, and the audience is given time to get into the characters and the situations (which, in too many movies, we are not allowed to do since the pace is often too frenetic).

Strange Days is challenging and aggressive and frequently disturbing. It is also inventive and exciting and ingeniously staged. It is simply a terrific science film which any devotee of the genre absolutely must see.
Super Reviewer
½ June 17, 2006
Set on new year's eve 1999 this action thriller combines sci-fi- and psycho-murderer-elements (machines can record what people see through their eyes), the omni-present fear of the millennium and mega city problems like police violence and race issues into an extremely entertaining and exciting mix. Ralph Fiennes shines in what was pretty much his only action hero role, as dealer of said first-person-clips who stumbles into a conspiracy and murder case that are taking quite a few twists and turns until the excellent two-part showdown solves it all with a bang. That's smart, fast, gripping and offers characters with a lot more than just a few layers. Angela Bassett portrays one of the strongest action heroines of the last 15 years and makes Fiennes (intentionally by writer James Cameron) look like a wuss. A bit dated, since we all survived the millennium, but still a great thrill ride with many surprised. Deserves more attention that it got.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2009
Entertaining with an ejoyable atmosphere but has its corny moments & Angela Bassett's superwoman character is annoying, Ralph Fiennes is fun to watch like always & the opening sequence is brilliant
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2008
Ralph is excellent in a very different role from what he's used to and Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis are good, too. The ending is pretty predictable, though.
Super Reviewer
½ November 3, 2008
An interesting scifi noir set in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve 1999 . Fiennes play a great hustler of full cerebral cortex experience discs. This main technology in the film will remind many of eXistenZ, though Strange Days released first. Interesting dystopic view of Los Angeles which reflects on the Rodney King riots. The pacing is addictive. The twists are typical, but still fun. Must watch for fans of scifi dystopia or those interested in virtual reality. I'm surprised this movie doesn't have a cult following.
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2006
A very cool science fiction movie set in the "near future". It's got a quirky style, emphasised by the rock/rap/world music soundtrack intermixing with the storyline itself, that appeals to me along with the ever excellent Ralph Fiennes.
Super Reviewer
½ May 23, 2007
After hearing this was written by James Cameron himself, my expectations for this film were set pretty high. I knew it wasn't gonna be in league with movies like Terminator and The Abyss, since Cameron only stood for the script and not the directing, but I was hoping it would at least turn out to be more than just an average sci-fi flick.

Thankfully though, it was a bit better than average, mostly thanks to Cameron's great writing, that compensated for the otherwise mediocre directing and acting. It could probably have been even better though if they had cut down the running time by half an hour or so, but I suppose you can't always get everything you ask for.
Super Reviewer
Lenny Nero: See... I can get you what you want, I can. I can get you anything, you just have to talk to me, you have to trust me. You can trust me, 'cause I'm your priest, I'm your shrink... I am you main connection to the switchboard of he soul. I'm the magic man... Santa Claus of the subconscious. You say it, you think it, you can have it.

Ralph Fiennes stars as Lenny, an ex-cop turned into what is essentially a drug dealer. He sells black market video technology allowing the viewer to experience, view, and feel various recorded memories.

He lives in a dystopian version of 1999 Los Angeles, plagued with riots against cops, gang wars, and restricted access to various parts of the city.

Talk radio host: Now, just so the, the rest of us know how much time is left, when is the rapture supposed to hit exactly? Is it midnight New Year's Eve?
Lori: That's right.
Talk radio host: Aha. Is that midnight L.A. time or, or Eastern Standard Time, or what? I mean, what timezone is God in anyway?

Lenny's associates include his best friend and bodyguard, a black women played nicely by Angela Bassett. His other friend, a PI played by Tom Sizemore. And his ex-girlfriend, now rock star played by Juliette Lewis.

The film takes place over the course of the final two days of 1999. A popular black rap artist has just been murdered, which could lead to even more rioting in the city. Many people believe in the end of the world approaching. Lenny himself becomes caught up in a possible murder conspiracy.

The movie takes a good hour to set up all of its characters before the plot actually starts to get underway. Within this time we learn of more seedy characters including some corrupt cops that includes Vincent D'Onofrio.

We also see just how dark things are in this film scripted and produced by James Cameron, who himself was influenced by the Rodney King events in 1992. Combined with female action director Kathryn Bigelow's visceral style of film making, there is a very good quasi-futuristic action story unfolding, complete with some noir overtones as well.

The video technology dealt out by Lenny serves as an interesting technique for the film, which uses it to great use. A lot of well done steadycam shots providing these memories are very creative to watch, and lend themselves to some of the dark stuff within this film.

Fiennes as Lenny is very good in his role as the protagonist who mainly talks his way out of troubles. His experiences within his own product are also effective.

This whole movie works as an effective thriller with a good story and performances, that unfortunately slipped under the radar in 1995, most likely because of how dark the depiction of the future was at the time.

Max: The issue isn't whether you're paranoid, but whether you're paranoid enough.
Super Reviewer
½ September 4, 2006
This one certainly lives up to it's title, the concept of 'stolen dreams' sold on the blackmarket is a great idea and several references were used throughout to compare to drug use.

All in all a very unusual unique film, worth watching with a great performance from Ralph Fiennes
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2007
The quintessential "millennium movie", this dazzling, high concept techno thriller is a bona-fide undiscovered gem. See it.
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2006
Superior cyber punk intelligently written by James Cameron examining the power of the media and corruption in the wake of the LA riots. The casting is a little odd as a star presence is definitely lacking, but as a whole, it works.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2006
Angela Bassett is always hot, but while the movie's concept is interesting the movie itself fell really short.
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2014
From director Kathryn Bigelow and writer James Cameron comes the cyberpunk thriller Strange Days. Set in the final days of 1999, a data trafficker is given a recording of a murder and must discover who is behind it and why. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, and Michael Wincott, the film has an interesting cast that plays some peculiar characters. And, the aesthetic is rather unique with some intriguing future tech. However, the storytelling isn't that good; as it takes a long time to get going and is fairly convoluted. Additionally, Cameron recycles a lot of dystopian future tropes; such as a military state. Yet despite its problems, Strange Days delivers some exciting action and a compelling mystery.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2012
Call this an alternate universe. A man's take on what would have transpired on New Years Eve 1999 in a world where virtual reality devices like you relive touch and feeling that you previously had in your life. Heck, you can take part in someone else's good experience..but this one focuses in on a particularly brutual scenario and I think Fiennes does well with it. Neat story.
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2007
In a futuristic world, black market virtual reality is all the rage. Ex-Cop Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is the guy you go to for all your virtual dreams. He can get you anything from the ultimate vacation to porno and everything in between. Nero's world is soon to be turned upside when on the eve of the millennium, he receives a tape which contains the murder of someone he knows. Many people don't know this, but Strange Days was actually written by famed Director, James Cameron, shortly before he did Titanic, a stark contrast from one project to the other. The mystery of Strange Days, as well as the machine, are cool as hell. What's not is how it ended, because once you find out who and why, you can pretty much figure out the rest, making the last half hour of the film unnecessary. Fiennes is the star and does a pretty good job, but the one who really impressed me was Angela Bassett. She plays his bad ass partner, Mace, and she was really something to see. Strange days is something different in many ways, but it's also predictable, repetitive, and anti-climactic in others. It's a cool film and a different story, but most of the acting is weak, and the story repeats itself leading up to its predictable ending.
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