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Dark City Director's Cut (Arrow Recommends)

PostedDecember 4, 10:01 AM 178 Test


"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a strange room with a dead body on the floor and no memory of who he is. As he seeks to uncover the truth behind his identity, he finds himself hunted down by a mysterious group of pale skinned and fedora abusing men known as The Strangers. He eventually discovers there's way more than meets the eyes going down in this freaking city.

“I don't think the sun even exists in this place." - Murdoch

LOWDOWN:  Like many of you out there Director ALEX PROYAS scarred me forever (in a good way) in 1994 with his moving audio/visually charged Gothic masterpiece The Crow and he went on to add another gash onto my dead-beat heart with Dark City in 1998. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen upon its initial release and it has stayed with me ever since.

In 2008 a Director's Cut of the picture was released on disk (

Watch it here
or better yet
own the Blu-Ray
) and for reasons that only my shrink knows for sure, I never got around to it. Recently I got the sudden urge to re-watch this classic and being that the Director's Cut had eluded me thus far, I figured that would be the version I would tap. And I’m so glad that I did. I didn’t think you could improve on Dark City and boy was I wrong!  

What can I say; right at the opening frames Dark City grabbed by the lapels, slapped me around and launched me into a dizzying world of intrigue and darkness.  Much like the lead protagonist of John (‎Rufus Sewell), I was tossed into a vast maze, clueless, and it was a delight to peel back the layers as the clock ticked forward to eventually uncover the truth.  One of the theatrical cut’s biggest faux-pas in my useless opinion was the Studio imposed opening narration which “explained” way too much ahead of time. They didn’t want the audience to be confused watching a movie about a guy being confused – idiots. The dumbed down 411 was absent in the D.Cut – as it should have been from the beginning and its omission added to the experience.

Everything about this cut did right by me!  The meticulous framing, Proyas and DP Ross Emery’s insane angles/camera moves (loved them push-ins and wide top shots) and the top-notch cutting (there was more breathing room edit wise in the D Cut - gave me the time to fully absorb some moments). Moreover, the ingenious use of music (Trevor Jones score = wow) and the stylized imagery to propel the story forward was genius! Then we had the inspired set designs which blew me away! Think the 1940’s meets Sci-Fi noir atmosphere (shades of Metropolis, The Twilight Zone and Brazil)… DAMN! The action scenes were exciting as hell too (all about that chase during the “city change”) and I worshiped the nemesis known as The Strangers. The morbid idea behind who they were, why they sported their look and their M.O. was chilling. And yes, that "Cenobite Chatterer" like chattering they sometimes did was much welcomed by this horror nut!

The whole worked just as well on a human level. The love story affected me and it reinforced one of the main themes of the film. Being human is not about the mind; it’s about the heart. Casting wise, I was ALL GOOD. Rufus Sewell was an ideal choice as the ill-informed lead, exuding vulnerability and also menace which worked for the “is he a killer or is he not” game the movie played. Jennifer Connelly gave a subtle and moving showcase (I liked that it was her voice singing in this D.Cut as opposed to Anita Kelsey in the theatrical version). She was also beauty incarnated. Its should be a crime to be THAT photogenic. On his end, Kiefer Sutherland was effective if not a tad too "Igor" for my liking while William Hurt classed the joint up with his intense display. Rounding up the main cast was Richard O'Brien who was mucho distressing as Mr. Hand and keep a look out for Melissa George in one of her first big roles.

This D.Cut often upped the stakes of the narrative with its add-ons. For example the spiral motif that runs throughout played a larger role in the story, the relationship between William Hurt and Jennifer Connelly's characters was given more screen time (new scenes and further dialogue) and the hooker  (Melissa George) got a daughter which made her key scene even more disturbing. And more was achieved technically! The SFX looked slicker and we got more wow during the final fight. And the color correction leaned more on yellow/green than the blue/grey of the theatrical cut. Solid polish job!   

Even John’s “tuning” bits were changed up, using better takes and pimping more convincing visual effects to convey the power. If I had any qualms with the film they would be 1- How did Connelly’s character know where the hooker lived? Did I miss something? Entirely possible that I did. And 2- Some of the CG that was used to communicate The Strangers true form was dodgy in places. But that’s NOTHING. 

As the end credits rolled, it was re-confirmed for me once more that DARK CITY was a film ahead of its time. I’m happy that it got more and more revered as the years went by. Beyond deserved! On this watch, it left me in deep thoughts and with even more questions afterwards.  

I personally think it’s a much better effort then The Matrix, which ripped on lots of its ideas (and also re-used some of its sets) but with more coin splashed onscreen. If you’ve never seen DARK CITY, do yourself a favor and hunt down the Director’s Cut. It is the ONLY way to see this modern masterpiece. Thank me later! How? A cold beer will suffice.