Strange Days

Rated R 145 minutes

Giving new meaning to the word punchy, this violent, hyperventilating 1995 thriller by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) is set in LA on the eve of the new millennium and has something to do with snuff tapes (with nods to Peeping Tom), racial violence, and police corruption. Screenwriters James Cameron and Jay Cocks often seem to have worked these matters into the script as fashionable teasers rather than subjects they have much to say about. Ralph Fiennes stars as a black marketeer who traffics in virtual-reality tapes, and one wonders if surviving fragments of four or five different script drafts are responsible for his change in personality every half hour or so. I wasn't bored at all by this, and Angela Bassett's action-hero charisma often blew me away, but fans of Bigelow at her best (e.g., Near Dark) may be put off by the movie's calculation, which doesn't always fit with its intellectual pretensions. With Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D'Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, and Richard Edson.

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