Although I think most people have at least heard of this title, it is one that seems to have been swept under the rug for whatever reason. It's in that same realm as the original 'Flatliners' in that if you mention it nowadays, it'll sound familiar, but a lot of people haven't seen it. It actually comes to us from writer/producer James Cameron and director Katheryn Bigelow - the once married couple who once battled for an Oscar between 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker' (which won).
If the pair behind the film wasn't interesting enough, there's also the rather original plot. I do have a bit of a bias when it comes to "dream-like" material, but the concept here involves a drug dealer type who deals in "dreams", so to speak. These are essentially someone else's real-life memories that can be fed into a machine through their cerebral cortex, and later transmitted back to another user. The user can therefore experience sex without having to think about all that comes with an escort, or the adrenaline from a bank robbery without the danger, or skydiving without having to leave the ground. It's a believable concept. The only catch is, as one might imagine, some of it ends up being "snuff", or as they refer to them, "blackjack clips".
A former cop named Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) deals in these illegal mind recordings, buying them up from his supplier, Tick (Richard Edson). In his spare time, he longs for a former escort named Faith (Juliette Lewis) by using his own SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) to relive, shall we say, fond memories. Lenny also relies on emotional support from his two friends; Max Peltier (Tom Sizemore), private investigator, and Lornette "Mace" Mason (Angela Bassett), bodyguard and limo driver, who has an unrequited love for him.
Meanwhile, another escort named Iris (Brigitte Bako), former friend of Faith's is chased by LAPD officers Burton Steckler (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Dwayne Engelman (William Fichtner), seemingly after her to destroy some sort of important evidence that we learn very quickly she's trying to get to Lenny for research having to do with a mysterious and creepy killer who's using the SQUID during his crimes. The whole thing turns into a sort of noir detective film, with a slight dose of comedy to take the edge off. It's not quite one of those movies you feel like you need a shower after watching, but it's often shady and uncomfortable.
Perhaps most interesting is that the story takes place within the final two days of 1999 (this was 1995, so at the time, it was a "near-future" concept) in Los Angeles, where criminal activity has reached an all time high. As you cruise down any street, it's a riot in progress, and it's all race fueled; much of it inspired by the 1992 Rodney King riots. This is all pretty much background stuff, but the importance of it comes through at the end. It's pretty heavy stuff to watch nowadays, mostly because the same message we're trying to get through to everyone now was very present in this movie from 25 years ago.
There's actually so much more to say about the film and how it all ties together, but I'd sooner just highly recommend watching it if you haven't yet. It's James Cameron's story and screenplay, sandwiched between 'True Lies' and 'Titanic' in order of release - the latter two titles clearly taking the fame. Although keep in mind, Cameron didn't direct this, Kathryn Bigelow did, the director known for 'Point Break' at the time. It hasn't received very high ratings, and it's often admittedly very odd, and maybe even a little uncomfortable, but for what it is, I really enjoyed it. It was imaginative and dark, but often fun. It was a pretty good balance, but definitely mostly leans toward dark and gritty. I say give it a shot if you like that kind of thing. I found it rather worth it.
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