Although it died a death on initial release back in ‘95, Kathryn Bigelow’s propulsive sci-fi thriller Strange Days is a stone cold, ass-kicking classic.
You ever see that movie where the murder of an African American man leads to widespread civil unrest and rioting, and a militarized police force cracking down on the people with merciless brutality, while the populace are too absorbed in artificial experiences mediated by digital technology to really give a shit? Or did you just live it this year?
Released back in 1995 to dismal box office ($8m against a $42m budget, Jesus wept) and indifferent critical response, Strange Days, as the kids on Twitter like to say, is good, actually. In point of fact, it’s a bona fide cyberpunk cinema classic, coming in at third place behind Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (forever the king) and Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (Verhoeven was right about everything).
Directed by the absolute machine known as Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, The Hurt Locker) and written by oceanographer and occasional filmmaker James Cameron (The Terminator, Avatar) and former critic Jay Cocks (The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York), was positioned to be a big blockbuster release, and rightly so. After all, James Cameron had brought the entire sci-fi genre a quantum leap forward with the Terminator flicks (Big Jim likes to call cyberpunk “tech noir”, and the fact that a nightclub in the Terminator is called that is no coincidence) while Bigelow, with Near Dark, Blue Steel, and Point Break under her belt by this stage, had proved herself a brilliant and stylish director of thoughtful action flicks (deliciously, Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker would shoulder check Cameron’s Avatar out of the Oscar race thirteen years later). Instead it crashed and burned, and even today you’d be hard pressed to track down a copy or even a stream.