Darkman - the 1990 movie directed by Sam Raimi


Liam Neeson Peyton Westlake/Darkman
Frances McDormand Julie Hastings
Colin Friels Louis Strack Jr
Larry Drake Robert G. Durant
Sam Raimi Story, Director
Robert Tapert Producer


Peyton Westlake Scientist Dr Peyton Westlake is on the verge of a scientific breakthrough - a synthetic skin which can help burn victims. The only problem is that the current versions of the skin that Westlake is working on only has a lifespan of 99 minutes before dissolving.

Life is good for Westlake, as well as his work his relationship with girlfriend Julie Hastings is blossoming with the prospects of marriage soon...

Julie's job as a lawyer has found some documents linking a developer to the organised crime in the city. Leaving the incriminating documents at Westlake's apartment come laboratory, Westlake discovers that the newest version of his synthetic skin can last past the 99 minute barrier, but only if not exposed to natural sunlight.

Westlake's discovery is soon interrupted by the arrival of Durant and his gang of thugs at the laboratory, they kill Westlake's assistant and ransack the laboratory. Attacking Westlake himself and then leaving him inside the building which they explode, Durant believes that it is the end of their problems... but Westlake does not die.

Although he survived the vicious attack and the explosion, Peyton's face and hands are burned beyond recognition.

In hospital, surgeons remove Peyton's neurons so that he can no longer feel pain, it also augments his strength but makes him prone to violent tempers.

After leaving hospital, Westlake scavenges the remains of his laboratory and hides out in an abandoned building. Slowly rebuilding his equipment and the synthetic skin, Westlake takes on the alter ego of Darkman to vent his anger at what has happened to him.

Seeking revenge on Durant and his gang, Peyton Westlake utilises his synthetic skin to impersonate members of the gang and member by member extracts his vengeance.

Julie Hastings
Louis Strack Jr Peyton also uses the synthetic skin to appear how he used to before the explosion and tries to resume his life with Julie, but his violent outbursts start to get in the way.

Whilst he is gaining his revenge against the gang, Westlake discovers that Durant takes his orders from Louis Strack Jr. Strack is also trying to develop a relationship with Julie.

After a skyscraper battle with Durant and his gang in which they are killed, Westlake confronts Strack who has taken Julie hostage on a building site.

After taunting Westlake about what he has become and how he looks, Strack falls from the building construction and dies, but not before Julie sees how Westlake really looks like now.

Realising that he can never lead a normal life, Darkman flees into the city.


A good movie from Sam Raimi, this being his first movie for a major studio.

The movie shows a lot of pulp and comic book influences: the Darkman character is reminiscent of The Shadow, whom Raimi had originally wanted to make a movie about. The 'origin' of Darkman also has similarities to Marvel Comics' origin of 'Captain America' and their inappropriately-named 'Man Thing'. The atmosphere is suitably dark but also shows touches of (dark) humour - the scene where Darkman shoves gang member Rick (Ted Raimi) out of a sewer is not out of place in a Warner Brothers' cartoon!

Liam Neeson gives a fine performance in his role of Peyton Westlake and Darkman.

He would later go on to find critical success with the lead role in Schindler's List, as well as a role in Star Wars Episode One.


Darkman unmasked


Originally the role of Peyton Westlake/Darkman was intended for Bruce Campbell, but the studio was not keen, so auditions were held and Neeson won the part.


Colin Fries and Larry Drake both seem to relish their roles as Strack and Durant. Drake would get to reprise his role as Robert G. Durant in Darkman II: The Return of Durant.


Frances McDormand is only average in her role as Julie Hastings, but that is perhaps understandable considering that she has the only (main) female role!

The Darkman movie was perhaps hoping to appeal to a similar audience to Tim Burton's version of Batman, which had great boxoffice the previous year. With the usual novelization, soundtrack and comic book adaptation, the movie looks to have not done as well as Universal hoped, for the sequel would not appear until 1994. 

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