Sam Raimi always wanted to make his own superhero movie. It was a natural fit for the director, as the Spider-Man films so clearly prove, but in 1990 no one was ready to trust him with a comic book hero on the strength of a couple of Evil Dead movies. So he created his own character: Darkman, a disfigured, damaged scientist who emerges from a fiery original story with one foot in the world of Gothic horror and the other in Hollywood action cinema.
Liam Neeson is Peyton Westlake, a scientist working on the experimental “liquid skin” in a laboratory built out of a waterfront warehouse. He lives with Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), an attorney representing a shady developer (Colin Friels) whose trail of bribes starts to surface. When he sends his thug Durant (Larry Drake), a beady-eyed heavy with a jowly face, a posh sense of fashion, and a pocket cigar cutter that doubles as a portable guillotine for the fingers of his victims, to grab the incriminating documents, Peyton and his lab assistant become collateral damage.
Darkman was Raimi’s first studio film and, while hardly a big-budget project, he had more resources at his disposal than he had ever had before and he celebrates with a big, busy opening scene of gang warfare. Raimi lets us know exactly what kind of film we’re in for in the first scene, where a gang stand-off becomes a massacre after Durant’s men pull out a machine gun hidden in prosthetic limb.