More noise than signal

Strange Days

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Strange Days breaks Predator 2’s record of shortest expected time for societal collapse (and simultaneous technological advancement), with this 1995 film set in 1999 leveraging some turn of the Willennium tension to show a Los Angeles sitting on a powder keg of racial and class tension. Wandering around with a match is Ralph Fiennes’ ex-cop Lenny Nero, now selling SQUID disks on the black market to rich clientele. What’s that, you grudgingly ask? Well, a SQUID disk is a direct recording of someone’s experience that you can then download into your mind and experience that experience as if you were experiencing that experience.

Sleazing his way around town, somewhat grudgingly aided by his friends, Angela Bassett’s Lornette “Mace” Mason, a bodyguard and limousine driver, and Tom Sizemore’s Max Peltier, fellow ex-cop and now private detective, but before long Lenny is pulled into a whirlwind of events that I’m not sure are worth recapping in any detail, otherwise we’ll be talking about it for as long as it would take to watch the film.

It starts with a now dead hooker and friend desperately trying to get a message and a SQUID disk to Lenny, which could see danger brought to Lenny’s ex-girlfriend, Juliette Lewis’s Faith, whom he still pines for. She’s chosen her singing career over their relationship, and is now shacked up with a shady manager / record label type, Michael Wincott’s Philo Gant, who’s also dealing with the fallout from the death of popular rapper Glenn Plummer’s Jeriko One, also a spearhead of a social movement.

So there’s a lot of moving parts before we add in a couple of coppers trying to get a hold of the SQUID disk with no regard for due process, and all of that’s before we know exactly what this McGuffin is going to tell us. This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in your head, man.

But, not more, arguably, than the noirs that this steals its central structure from, before giving it a gloss of cyberpunk and Blade Runner that, I suppose, rather dates the film, but thankfully for me at least it’s a point in time I can rather get behind. I’ll tell you how remarkable this film is: Tom Sizemore is in it and he doesn’t ruin it. I actually think he’s quite good in it, bringing the total number of tolerable Tom Sizemore turns to one.

Fiennes is dependably engaging, and his relationship with Angela Bassett plays out nicely over the course of the piece. I perhaps wonder if this story will hold up at all to repeat viewing, however I’ve only seen this once, and I liked it a great deal. Well worth pulling off the shelf, particularly if like me this has been on your “must catch up with this” list for the past twenty years, oh Lord I am so old.