Viking Night: Strange Days
By Bruce Hall
March 19, 2013
Recent years have been good to Kathryn Bigelow, but you might not have pegged her for a star back in 1995. After the surfin' stud party that was Point Break came Strange Days, a dystopian near future crime thriller set in Los Angeles on the eve of the (fake) millennium. In this future, the city is a violent war zone where racial tensions are at an all time high and economic activity is at historic lows. The impending calendar change makes it worse, adding superstition to the list of things that threaten to blow the lid off a city already pushed to the edge.
Against this backdrop, Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) plies his trade - the buying and selling of memories. He is a former cop who now deals in black market virtual reality recordings that allow you to experience what it's like to be someone else. They're made by wearing an odd looking headpiece that zaps everything you feel, taste, smell and see onto compact disc. By reversing the process, anyone can experience anything, from what it's like to be Jerry Seinfeld eating breakfast to what it's like to be Angelina Jolie in the shower.
Or maybe the other way around, if that's your thing.
The devices are illegal because - surprise - a lot of people get addicted to them; also because - surprise - the most popular titles tend to be hardcore pornography. It's a seedy world Nero inhabits, but he's not in it alone. He gets most of his stock from a guy named Tick (Richard Edson), who constantly tries to sell Nero "black jack" recordings, made when the person wearing the device suddenly dies. But all this dirty business works out well for Nero; he never buys his own drinks, he drives a smart looking Benz and he dresses like a Star Trek character.
But it can't all be roses and porn, can it? Nero spends his free time reliving experiences with Faith (Juliette Lewis), a long gone girlfriend who's now shacked up with someone else. Basically, his life consists entirely of selling porn to scumbags and hitting it with his ex girlfriend in virtual reality. The only good in his life, and his only connection to the past, is Lornette "Mace" Mason (Angela Bassett), a kindly inner city single mom who drives a limo and has arms like rebar. She disapproves of her friend's lifestyle loudly and often, and constantly has to bail him out of trouble.
She again comes to the rescue when an acquaintance gets caught up in a police cover up. Iris (Brigitte Bako) is a prostitute who happens to be a customer of Nero's, as well as Faith's ex-roommate. She's being chased by two not very nice looking cops in Donnie Brasco haircuts who clearly want her dead. Looking for answers, Nero obviously decides to start stalking Faith, putting him at odds with her new boyfriend, high rolling record producer Philo Gant (Michael Wincott). Soon after that Iris turns up dead, leading Nero and Mace to believe they’re onto something.