A nostalgic trip to the 90s, Strange Days reminds us of a time when we thought that Y2K would end the world.
I remember liking this film when I first saw it and suspect now it was for its minimal subverting of gender and racial action movie stereotypes. It still has some charm, made slightly greater for its misguided view of future technology that looks oh so 90s.
Lenny (Ralph Fiennes) is an ex cop who makes a living from black-market ‘playback’, a technology that allows you to neurologically and emotionally experience a scene out of someone else’s life. We know he’s a good kind of criminal though because he draws the line at snuff (but not at porn) and is still doe-eyed about past love, Faith (Juliette Lewis), a hooker turned singer. Faith’s friend Iris (Brigitte Bako) appears in a panic and, afraid for her life, hides a playback disc in Lenny’s car. And so unfolds a mystery where Lenny, best pal Mace (Angela Bassett) and cop Max (Tom Sizemore) must outrun unknown villains and renegade cops and save the world.
The saving grace, for me, is Angela Bassett’s unapologetic role as a kick-ass woman who, like the stereotypical male hero, arrives in the nick of time to beat up and outsmart the baddies and save a whimpering Lenny. This is counterbalanced, unfortunately, with much more familiar tropes regarding her role as a mother and her ultimate victimisation and need to be saved by a white male. Mace is also one of only three named characters of colour and the only one not to be a stereotype.
The gender subversion ends with Mace unfortunately and the other female characters are mostly objectified and mainly prostitutes. Faith is particularly undermined, relegated to a succession of revealing outfits and with little depth or believable motivation for her actions. Lenny is not a bad antihero but, without Mace, it would have been a short movie.
I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see this film again but I don’t think it will be in my top 10 list.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.