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Strange Days


Strange Days is a cyberpunk movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by James Cameron. It was released in 1995.

Strange Days happens already in past, in new year's eve in 1999, and ends when year 2000 begins.


Los Angeles, December 31, 1999. The eve of the Millennium. Worldwide tension mounts during the final hours of this century as humanity holds its breath for the odometer to click over to triple zeroes. Is it the end of the world, or the beginning of a new one?

In the digital underground of this violent and chaotic city, human experience is bought and sold as the newest form of illicit entertainment. Through these neon nights and "Strange Days" moves Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), street hustler, ex-cop, and panhandler of stolen dreams. To him the city is like a big coral reef ... a giant food chain. Alive and dynamic. A place where a fast fish can eat and avoid being eaten. Lenny can talk himself out of trouble fast, but into trouble faster. Lenny is a charming bottomfeeder who could sell Dr. Scholl's to a snake, and he seems to know everybody. But now somebody he knows is setting him up for a fall, and he suddenly finds himself in a maze of paranoia, deception and murder.

See, Lenny sells "clips" -- little bits and pieces of peoples' lives, everything they saw, heard, and felt for thirty minutes captured on a digital recording. They call it "the wire," and Lenny has everybody hooked. If it has anything to do with the wire, sooner or later it washes up on his beach. As Lenny says, "This is not like TV only better. This is life -- a piece of somebody's life, straight from the cerebral cortex." It's all there, powerful and true -- the physical and emotional purity of raw human experience. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch. You go through it whole, as if it were happening to you right then, right there. Users call it playback and in a future far more dangerous than our present it has become the drug of choice. If it can be recorded, it can be experienced and Lenny is the man who can make anything happen -- safely and discreetly -- wherever and whenever you want it. "I'm the Magic Man," he likes to say, "the Santa Claus of the Subconscious. You say it, you even think it, you can have it."

Lenny's greatest gift is insight into human nature -- the talent of a world-class psychiatrist or bartender -- the ability to see into people, to say to them what they may not even be able to say to themselves. He knows about longing and desire, pain and frustration. He knows what people want, what their subconscious minds want, and why they do things. He knows the importance of fantasy, and of seeing through other eyes. Lenny's stock in trade is human experience. There are a million stories in the City of Angels, and Lenny has the highlights available for your pleasure. Sex. Thrills. Violence. And maybe a little vicarious love. All that good stuff. If you want it. If you can pay for it. If you can handle it.

Anything but death. Lenny doesn't deal in death. He refuses to buy or sell "blackjacks" -- death clips. But tonight death will be dealing with Lenny. A girl Lenny knew named Iris (Brigitte Bako) used to do "wire work" for him, recording clips he could sell on the run. Desperate. Terrified. Before she can tell him why, she's brutally murdered. And when someone anonymously slips him the killer's playback recording of Iris' death, Lenny can't help but become an emotional accomplice. Playback won't let you flinch or look away. Lenny must relive the crime from start to finish, allowing the murderer's psychotic elation to mix with his own horror.

The clip becomes a door into a mirror-maze of intrigue, betrayal and relentless pursuit by forces he doesn't understand. It leads inexorably toward a secret so lethal that it may bring the entire city down in flames. In a flashpoint society, Lenny finds himself holding the ultimate lit match. And on New Year's Eve, the mother of all parties threatens to turn into a riot so big you'll see the smoke from Canada. Lenny is fighting way out of his weight class, running to stay alive, racing to solve the puzzle before it solves him. There are only two people he can really trust in these strangest of days. It's Mace (Angela Bassett) he calls for help and transportation. She's a stunningly forceful woman who makes her living as a security agent, offering protection to the wealthy and powerful clients who ride in her armored limousine. Lenny, neither wealthy nor powerful, is always begging rides off her. Mace doesn't approve of his current profession ("Face it, Lenny. You sell porno to wireheads.") but their unusual relationship predates all that. It was forged in a better time, before Lenny became addicted to his own hustle. Now, she's the only friend he's got who can look past the facade and see Lenny for what he truly is: a romantic in a world that's lost its balance, trying to survive with as little pain as possible.

And it's Max (Tom Sizemore), the most loyal and dependable lowlife you could ever hope to meet, to whom Lenny turns for spiritual solace. Max is an ex-cop too, getting by on a meager disability pension and his own unique brand of cynicism. "You know how I know it's the end of the world, Lenny? Everything's already been done. Every kinda music, every government, every hairstyle. How we gonna make it another thousand years, for Chrissake?" Good question. The only positive thing you can say about Los Angeles 1999 is that the city is still standing. The long-awaited "big one" hasn't hit yet, though many would consider it a blessing if it did. Police and National Guardsmen fill the streets, enforcing a tenuous illusion of order while Molotov cocktails take out BMWs three blocks over. Gunfire is common now, buildings smolder, residents are boxed in on all sides by military checkpoints.

Violence, poverty, class/race warfare. Los Angeles is a city under siege, an occupied nation where the camera eye and the helicopter spotlight define the limits of your freedom. The execution-style homicide of rap star/militant activist Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer) pushes racial tensions even closer to the breaking point. Martyred, Jeriko's prophecy of revolt hangs over Los Angeles like an H-bomb. Lenny, Mace and Max must navigate this exploding landscape and fit all the jagged pieces together before it's too late. It makes for a crazy jigsaw: Iris' death, Jeriko One's murder, cutting closer to Lenny than he ever would have thought possible. Whoever was chasing Iris seems to have caught Lenny's scent; anonymous playback clips keep appearing, pulling Lenny deeper into mystery and addiction, nailing him with guilt and dread.

Lenny's greatest fear is that whoever killed Iris may now be after Faith (Juliette Lewis), an up-and-coming singer and the singular implacable obsession from Lenny's former, happier life. The memories of his time with Faith are what keep Lenny together. But Faith has put those memories far behind her. She loved him once, maybe. But whatever she felt is part of a surrendered past which only Lenny will not give up. Lenny keeps it to himself, safely preserved in a tattered shoebox full of playback clips. But the past keeps scrambling the present, and the closer Lenny gets to the truth of all the killings, the more he puts himself at risk. Only one thing is certain: Lenny's got one last chance at a new beginning. All he needs to do is get the woman who loves him to help him save the woman he loves. And somehow make it through the night alive.

As the year ends, the century dies, and the millennium approaches, he must make good, turn himself around or sink into darkness. Street savvy, funny and fast, Lenny has always made the smart pick. But as the world spins toward the last midnight of the century, living or dying may not be up to him.

Links & References

Strange Days Information
Movie entry in Internet Movie Database.

Strange Days for Cyberpunk Cinema in the 90's
An essay about the movie by Lucas Johnson.

Strange Days Page
A Strange Days home page. Trivia, pictures, trailers, sounds, soundtrack...

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