"Darkman" would possibly be the perfect comic book movie adaptation, if it had been based on a comic series, that is. Yet all the ingredients are there, from the overblown characters to the stylised violence, in what is a fast and entertaining slice of fantasy.
Liam Neeson is Dr Peyton Westlake, a scientist attempting to create synthetic skin. Before he can perfect his formula, he's beaten to a disfigured pulp and left for dead in his laboratory, which is subsequently blown-up. The perpetrators are a gang of criminals led by the despicable Robert G Durant (Larry Drake), who is looking for incriminating evidence against him that was obtained by Peyton's girlfriend.
Hideously scarred and mistaken for a tramp, he's rescued by radical surgery that cuts off his nerve endings from his brain. Unable to feel pain, his other senses are heightened with disastrous emotional side effects. While his girlfriend is left grieving by his graveside, he sets out for revenge by using his skin technology to adopt the faces of the villains who ruined his life.
Liam Neeson plays Peyton with a mix of pathos and swashbuckling righteousness, while director Sam Raimi weaves a fantasy world of exaggerated mayhem for Leeson to leap about in. Events move at a breakneck speed over major plot holes that are further smoothed by the charismatic Neeson. His character is easy to empathise with and his grand scheme of retribution is far cleverer and more satisfying than the average revenge movie.
Hopefully Raimi will bring the same level of invention, wit, and style to his "Spider-Man" film, due out in 2002.
Read a review of the DVD.
"Darkman" is on Channel 5 at 9pm, Sunday 22nd April 2001.