Darkman’s still trying to fix that liquid skin problem, and this time he forms a partnership with one of the doctors who did the experimental surgery on him in the first place. She wants to try out a new technique to rewire his nerves so he has feeling again, and he agrees to be her guinea pig on the condition that he can borrow her top of the line DNA sequencer for his skin project. Both end up getting what they want: the equipment helps him “break the 99 minute barrier” (again – they seem to have forgotten he already did it in part 2) and she rewires his nerves to a remote control device because actually she works for a crazy steroid dealer (Jeff Fahey) who’s pissed off because Darkman stole a bunch of his money and now he wants to study him to find out how he gets his super darkstrength.
DIE DARKMAN, DIE has the same director as part 2 but this time it’s written by Colleary and Werb, the guys who wrote DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH and FACE/OFF. Come to think of it these guys are obsessed with faces and masks. Colleary even wrote an episode of the new Alfred Hitchcock Presents about a woman who has plastic surgery to look like someone else and Werb was a writer on THE MASK. Weird. But the point is they are pretty good writers and went beyond the DTV call of duty on this one.
The majority of DTV sequels (and DTV in general) is pretty bland and predictable. Usually it’s just a cheap rehash of the first one, not alot of ideas, not alot of exciting moments, not much happens. But DARKMAN III has all kinds of shit: Darkman being forced to run an “obstacle course” that involves blowing up a car and running across oil barrels that explode and fly like rockets as people shoot at him, Darkman having to remove an implant from his brain using plyers, even Darkman disguising himself just to show up at the villain’s daughter’s school play so she won’t be sad. They came up with all kinds of funny ideas and clever angles on the DARKMAN concept.
While Larry Drake was a great villain on the big screen, who better for a DTV villain than Jeff Fahey? He’s perfect for this kind of role because he just looks like such a prick, you want to punch him just for how he sneers at you. And Fahey gets to use his overacting powers as a steroid kingpin who brags “I don’t sell drugs, I sell strength.” I also suspect he might get high on his own supply because he has sudden hilarious bursts of what could be roid rage. My favorite is when he sees the D.A. on TV making the usual speech about “we will stop this outbreak, we will get these animals off the streets” and Fahey yells something about “ANIMALS!?? HE DARES CALL US ANIMALS!??” Next thing you know there’s a little girl in his office saying “Daddy daddy, look at my new dress!” and you realize all this sinisterness is going on in his own house near his wife and kid.
Bringing up roid rage idea was a good idea because Darkman’s power is kind of the reverse. People on steroids have enhanced strength that causes them to have emotional outbursts, Darkman has emotional outbursts that cause him to have enhanced strength. Fahey is obsessed with strength so his mad scientist lady/mistress studies Darkman and somehow makes the leap of synthesizing a drug that does the same thing. The ultimate goal is to sell the drug on the streets, but another part of Fahey’s villainous master plan is to have his now super-powered thugs tear the D.A.’s head off on live TV!
I realized this was really something special during the scene where Darkman disguises himself as Fahey to sneak into his mansion at night, get into his safe and steal back the disc that has all his research data on it. (By the way, it’s a 3 1/2″ floppy disk, so all of his research must’ve been about 21 megabytes.) Should be a quick and easy mission except that Fahey’s daughter wakes up and asks if she can have cocoa. Darkman-as-Fahey tries to brush her off, but she’s afraid of the dark, and he knows from staking the place out the night before that Fahey is a terrible father and this poor little girl thinks he doesn’t love her anymore. He feels bad.
So Darkman figures ah shit, I shouldn’t be doing this but – poor girl. Gotta get her out of my hair anyway. I think I can handle this. Should only take a few minutes, I’ll go make her the cocoa and then I’ll–
SURPRISE! Turns out he just walked into a surprise birthday party for Jeff Fahey, and everybody’s there. So now he has to hang around and talk to guests. Next time you feel awkward at a party just be glad you’re not a horribly disfigured avenger and only planned to steal something real quick but now you have to have conversations knowing the clock is ticking to when your face is gonna start bubbling and melting. And then a guy who thinks he’s your uncle pressures you to play a sonata for everyone on the piano.
Pretending to be husband and father actually makes alot of sense for the character. He was a successful scientist in a relationship, maybe about to get married, next thing you know he’s a monster living in a sewer. When he sees this nice lady (for some reason married to an obvious prick) and her daughter being neglected he sees this opportunity to be kind of a family man for a minute. He’s helping them but also getting a taste of something he’ll never have. In fact it’s important character development too because it shows Darkman struggling with the idea of being a hero. He’s really not, he’s an avenger, and everything he’s doing is for his own satisfaction and to help him, he doesn’t intend to help others. But his pity for these two and his emotional need for them sort of pushes him into being a do-gooder, which would’ve been important if there had been more sequels. Which there weren’t. Oh well.
To no one’s surprise there are some shortcuts and some cheats like you would expect in a DTV sequel. They use almost the same introduction from part 2 and I’m pretty sure they even recycled an entire scene of Darkman going down into the sewer and driving around on his Darkmobile. (Wikipedia says this one was made first but they held off releasing it after Larry Drake signed on for part 2, so actually I guess part 2 is the one doing the recycling, and part 3 is innocent.)
One little thing I’d like to mention, I always get a chuckle out of overly-explanatory dialogue. For example, when the henchmen are about to get an injection of the synthesized Darkman strength one of them says, “So this shot is gonna make us strong?” Like he really needs to ask that. I kind of like that they have some of that here because they did the same thing in the real DARKMAN, like the scene where Neeson is in the lab and asks out loud “Why won’t the liquid skin last?” Sometimes characters in movies have to “reset” like talk radio hosts: “If you’re just joining us, we’re experimenting with liquid skin that loses cellular integrity after 99 minutes.”
Anyway, DARKMAN III: DIE DARKMAN, DIE obviously can’t stand toe-to-toe with the theatrical DARKMAN, but it’s everything you could hope for in DTV DARKMAN. I like this one alot better than part 2 and in fact I think it may be in the running for best DTV sequel ever made (I know, not saying much, but this sort of ranking is important to me).
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.