Dark City? More Like Dark Shitty

A movie so dark it can barely show us its title.

I had read a lot of great things about Dark City. Apparently, it has garnered a cult following, and film critic Roger Ebert has a raging boner for it. But that’s the thing about cult movies. Usually, they aren’t popular for a reason. Sometimes they can turn out great, like Evil Dead. However, most of the time, they suck ass. Dark City is that kind of movie.

Watching it, you can tell that at one point the script was probably good. It tries to tell a complex tale of an amnesiac who suddenly gains telekinetic powers. There are some genuine high-concept ideas as the film poses questions about the nature of personality and memory. If your memories were given to someone else, would that person become you? Would they retain their original personality? What really defines us as individuals? It’s cool stuff, for sure, but it is handled the same way you would handle dogshit: grab it in a plastic bag and throw it away as fast as possible.

Dark City is a great example of a movie that had set up all the pieces correctly, but failed in the execution of every single one of them. The once-good script must have had important parts excised in order to fit the movie into an appropriate running time, the pacing is all off, the acting is fucking atrocious, the special effects are laughable, and nobody acts how a normal person should act.

First, the pacing. The movie races through its running time from beginning to end. None of the scenes are given any time to breathe. The characters show up, say their lines, do whatever they are supposed to do, and then – BAM – smash cut to the next scene. The camera never lingers, the actors don’t have a chance to emote as they are constantly spouting dialog, and there is no build-up of atmosphere.

Kiefer got a lot of practice torturing people in his pre-24 days.

The world-building takes a back-seat to a LET’S HAVE SHIT HAPPENING RIGHT NOW ethos. If they had taken their time, introduced the audience to the world gradually, then the movie would have been far better. The music makes this worse, because the score in every scene sounds like the goddamn climax of the movie. How can it be the climax when it’s the first fucking scene? Who the fuck knows what they were thinking? Listening to this movie is fucking exhausting.

Second, the acting. Jesus fucking Christ, there is some shitty acting in this movie. It has an OK cast including Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, William Hurt, and Jennifer Connelly. None of them are exactly what I’d call the cream of the crop in terms of acting talent, but I’ve seen all of them turn in good performances in other movies. Here, they all suck.

Sewell runs from place to place, looking scared and confused and constipated the entire time, and, like the audience, he doesn’t have a clue what the fuck is going on. And I don’t mean the character, I mean the actor. Sutherland spits out his lines in this staccato, exasperated voice that is the exact opposite of good. Clearly, the director wanted something out of him, but all I got was that he was constantly out of breath. Hurt does his usual thing of stern, monotone guy, and his lines just don’t have any weight or impact. Connelly is by far the worst offender is this cinematic turd. She goes throughout the entire movie flat-faced, without emotion, sleepily reciting her lines, and looking like she doesn’t give a single fuck about this movie. In one scene in particular, Connelly discovers a recently murdered body, she turns to run away and is caught by Hurt. Instead of screaming hysterically like a normal person, she robotically says, “What are you doing here?” Her performance rivals famous robotic performances like Scarlett Johanssen in The Avengers and January Jones in everything she’s ever been in.


Third, the cheese factor. Yes, the special effects are super cheesy. Mostly they consist of bad CGI buildings twisting and rising out of the ground. Or shots of models of buildings that are supposed to make us think we are looking at a metropolis, but end up looking exactly like models. And then there is the telekinetic power effect, where waves of translucent energy shoot out of Sewell’s head. In the climax, Sewell and the main bad guy shoot energy beams out of their foreheads at each other. The world is crashing down around them, and they just stare at each other, not moving, not grimacing like this is taking a lot of effort, just staring while some CGI-shit works its magic. It’s like a scene straight out of Dragonball Z, except far worse. This is certainly the fault of the director for not telling his actors to fucking act like they are doing something. He preferred to have them stand there woodenly.

Fourth, nobody acts like a normal goddamn person. There is a character who is similar to Sewell’s. He was a cop who was investigating murders and went crazy. He acts like a goddamn lunatic, bouncing off the walls in every scene. Then, he meets Sewell and has a nice leisurely conversation with him. Of course, he ultimately throws himself in front of a train. But the fact is, his entire demeanor changed. His memories weren’t changed because he still knew about all the bad shit that was going on. The writer just got lazy.


Hurt’s character, another cop, spends the bulk of the movie chasing Sewell, whom he believes to be a serial killer. He eventually teams up with Sewell, but why he does is never explained. Basically, he knows something is wrong with the world, he arrests Sewell, then Sewell demonstrates his telekinetic powers, and suddenly Hurt helps him to escape, kidnaps a psychiatrist, and tries to bust out of the city. Hello? Logic? Where are you? You must be on vacation.

There were a couple of things I did like about the movie. I really dug the whole 1950s style of the city and wardrobe. The production design was by far the most interesting thing going on. I also like how one of the villains is this little kid who says his lines like “We must kill him” in his high-pitched little kid voice. In one scene, Sewell is about to fall off a building, but is barely clinging on. The little kid bites his hand in the fakest looking bite I’ve ever scene, and Sewell ACTS HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF screaming like he just took a chainsaw to the nuts. The only other part I liked is when Melissa George from Alias got naked and showed off her boobs.

That really annoying couple you can’t stand, but they invite you to shit all the time.

Like I said before, the script was probably good at one point. But the gaps in character logic, such as Hurt joining Sewell, makes me think additional scenes were cut. Also, why were the aliens using corpses as vessels, and where the hell were they getting food on a giant city in space with no sunlight, water, or farmland? Those ideas may have been in the original script, but didn’t make it to the screen. Although, if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, it was written by David Goyer, the same genius behind Kickboxer 2, The Crow 2, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, and Jumper.

The movie was shitty and hokey and most of the issues lie with hack director Alex Proyas. His resume includes such gems as The Crow, I Robot, and Knowing. When his other movies include goths, Will Smith fighting robots, and Nicolas Cage predicting the future, you know that he is the best possible director for this movie. The fact that this movie has a dedicated following proves that cult movies are popular for reasons other than the movie being any good. And since Roger Ebert loves it, well, it’s probably because he rewatched that scene with naked Melissa George a million times.

And what about the ending? Sewell is victorious and the first thing he does is BUILD A FUCKING BEACH instead of turning the spaceship around and heading back to Earth. Although, he was doing it to get in Connelly’s pants, and that certainly isn’t a bad idea.

Verdict: Shitty

21 Responses to “Dark City? More Like Dark Shitty”

  1. March 22, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I liked Dark City for a while, but you make good points about the main cast and the pacing. I’m not sure if you watched the original or the director’s cut – probably the director’s cut, since that is the only version I have seen around – but although the director’s cut is supposed to be better, it re-introduced a few scenes that fuck up the continuity of the film and I’ve always remembered it for that.
    I like it for what it was trying to do, and for how the set design in the first half of the film went, but otherwise it isn’t something I’ve bothered to revisit after seeing it twice. I don’t think I would recommend it as a blu-ray title either, the director’s cut DVD does the good well enough.

    • March 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      I watched the Director’s Cut. I never saw the theatrical, so I can’t say if I would have liked it better. I don’t think the terrible acting, cheesy effects, or non-sensical shit would have been much different, though. Yeah, I do like the aesthetics of it, but for a film, you need more than that.

  2. 3 WL
    March 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    By the same guy who did Jumper? Funny, cause I thought about Jumper while reading the post.

    Sounds like another case of wasted potential, storytelling’s worst enemy.

  3. March 26, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I remember seeing a little bit of this film. From your review, I think it was the bit where Rufus Sewell was actually acting. So naturally, I thought it looked like a film that’s worth watching. Also, it’s cult status has made me believe so.

    Might yet give it a go, if I ever come across it again. However, life is precious, and I’m not sure I have 90 minutes spare for something that is potentially shitty to me. Thanks for the heads up, Brik!

  4. April 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    *sigh* Brik, Brik, Brik, Brik, Brik.

    Brik, Brik, Brik, Brik, Brik….

    LOL You really are something sometimes. Dark City is a sci-fi classic, I’m absolutely behind Roger Ebert (RIP) on this one. It’s an incredible movie.

    And don’t mess with Jen Connelly man, she’s lovely and talented and has an Oscar to prove it. 😉

    • April 12, 2013 at 7:43 am

      You only agree with Ebert because of the naked Melissa George scene. Admit it. Do me a favor the next time you watch this movie. Re-read this post, and keep it in mind when you watch. The horrendous acting and general stupidity will be far more apparent.

  5. 12 Joe Knows
    September 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Grow a brain. You’re not qualified for critiquing with the brain of a chimp…ya damn dumbass.

  6. November 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I’ve just finished watching Dark Shitty, as you appropriately call it, and I want my 90 minutes back.

  7. November 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    ps. Be careful with cultists, they are far more dangerous than radioactive cobras. I dared attack “Interstellar” and I was almost assaulted by Nolanists.

  8. 18 Vortex_
    February 3, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Science-fiction masterpiece, I suggest you stop doing reviews as you clearly can’t even understand the movie properly.

  9. 20 melatol
    September 9, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    We just watched the movie and I just wanted to say THANK you for being there for us. We thought we were crazy or idiots for not liking this piece of crap. Your review was structured amazingly and based on common sense smt that none of these blind folded cultists that support this shit could possibly understand. I think that people were based on the “I didnt get it so it must be awesome” argument cause many stuff were uncleared and an idea itself can support a whole movie. Acting was also terrible, but I cant blame Connelly for not giving a shit nor Sewell for not knowing what he was a part of.
    Thank u again mate, that was liberating. Much respect to you and your work.

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March 2013


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