Sunday, January 21, 2018

Darkman II: The Return Of Durant

Universal returned to the Darkman character created by Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD) for two direct-to-video sequels shot back-to-back in Toronto by Bradford May (AMY FISHER: MY STORY). A cinematographer with experience directing episodic television and made-for-TV movies, May tackles his first feature with style, achieving a slick look, rapid pace, and quite a bit of fun and excitement. Liam Neeson was too big a star to return for DARKMAN II, but Larry Drake (L.A. LAW) wasn’t, even though his character was convincingly killed off at the end of the first movie. Hey, in comic books, nobody dies forever.

Arnold Vosloo (THE MUMMY) takes over as Peyton Westlake, who has been continuing his experiments in synthetic skin, financing them by ripping off drug pushers and arms dealers. His hope is to perfect the skin, which deteriorates after 99 minutes, so he can permanently restore his horribly scarred visage. Drake’s Robert Durant, back in town after three years in a coma, seeks revenge against archenemy Westlake.

He springs mad doctor Hathaway (Lawrence Dane) from an insane asylum and forces him to build a powerful laser weapon for use in his crime spree. More of a straight crime drama than Raimi’s original film, DARKMAN II suffers by excising the horror element that made Westlake such a sympathetic character.

Drake, by necessity, gets the best lines in the screenplay by Steven McKay (DIGGSTOWN) and makes more of an impact than Vosloo, who is rarely seen wearing the bandages and slouch hat that made the character so mysterious in DARKMAN. Kim Delaney, later an Emmy winner for NYPD BLUE, has a minor role as a television reporter who smokes a lot (and badly). Renee O’Connor, whom Raimi later hired to be Lucy Lawless’ sidekick on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, also appears in support as the owner of a strip club where the dancers don’t strip (you can take the director out of television, but you can’t take the television out of the director).

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