Strange Days (film)

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Strange Days
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Produced by James Cameron
Steven-Charles Jaffe
Screenplay by James Cameron
Jay Cocks
Story by James Cameron
Starring Ralph Fiennes
Angela Bassett
Juliette Lewis
Tom Sizemore
Vincent D'Onofrio
Michael Wincott
William Fichtner
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Howard Smith
James Cameron
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • October 13, 1995 (1995-10-13)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $42 million
Box office $7.9 million (US)

Strange Days is a 1995 American science fiction thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Michael Wincott. It was produced by Cameron and Steven-Charles Jaffe.

The film was nominated for five Saturn Awards, with Bassett winning Best Actress, and Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the Saturn Award for Best Director.


In the last two days of 1999, Los Angeles has become a dangerous war zone. As a group of criminals rob a Chinese restaurant, the event is recorded by a robber wearing a 'SQUID', or "Superconducting Quantum Interference Device", an illegal electronic device which records events directly from the wearer's cerebral cortex, and when played back through a MiniDisc-like device called a "deck", allow a user to experience the recorder's memories and physical sensations. Lenny Nero is a former LAPD officer turned black marketeer who deals in bootleg SQUID recordings. His main supplier, Tick (Richard Edson), tries to sell the robbery clip to him. Lenny eventually agrees to buy it at a reduced price, having to cut out the last part where the rig records the robber's death by falling; clips that record the wearer's death are known as "blackjack" (snuff) clips, because the experience is described as "jacking into the big black" by Tick.

Elsewhere, a prostitute named Iris is being chased by two police officers as she flees to the subway. As the train departs, one of the officers shatters a window and grabs Iris; her wig is pulled off, revealing a SQUID recorder headset. Lenny pines for his ex-girlfriend Faith, while relying on his two best friends, bodyguard and combat specialist Lornette "Mace" Mason and private investigator Max Peltier, for emotional support. Mace has unrequited feelings for Lenny from the past, from when he was still a cop and stepped in as a dependable father figure for her son after her boyfriend was arrested on drug charges; she disapproves of his SQUID-dealing business. While the three are drinking together at a bar, Iris arrives, drops a disc through the sunroof of Lenny's car and flees when she sees police nearby. Lenny's car is towed away before Lenny can find the disc.

Hours later, Lenny receives a "blackjack" clip from an anonymous sender, and watches the brutal rape and murder of Iris. Lenny tries to get Faith away from her new boyfriend, music industry mogul Philo Gant, but to no avail. Lenny later receives more snuff tapes. He and Mace discover that the deaths are tied to a cover-up of the murder of rapper Jeriko One and one of his band mates by two renegade LAPD officers. As they are hunted by the two policemen, Burton Steckler and Dwayne Engelman, Lenny discovers that Iris witnessed the murders.

Lenny, Mace, and Max discover that Tick has been rendered brain-dead ("cooked off") from forcefully being exposed to highly amplified SQUID signals. Lenny concludes that the assault on Tick was committed by the same person that killed Iris and fears Faith will be next. Lenny and Mace consider giving the tape to the media, but Max discourages them by saying it will set off a citywide race riot: "They will see the flames from Canada!" Lenny and Mace confront Faith about the truth behind Jeriko's death. Faith mentions that Philo has been monitoring his inner circle. Philo hired Iris to spy on him. Lenny convinces Faith to escape with them, but Philo's henchmen stop them.

As midnight approaches, Lenny and Mace sneak into a private New Year's party at the Bonaventure Hotel that Philo is hosting for the city's wealthy elite. Lenny gives the disk to Mace so she can deliver it to Deputy Police Commissioner Palmer Strickland. Upon entering Philo's penthouse suite, Lenny finds another SQUID disk which shows Faith apparently being raped and killed. Lenny finds a body covered in bedsheets and pulls the sheets aside to find Philo, whose brain has been damaged in the same manner as Tick's. Lenny discovers the killer is Max. He only pretended to kill Faith and it becomes apparent that the two have become lovers. In the clip, Philo enters the room and Max forces him to run the amplified recording. Max and Faith enter the room. Max disarms Lenny and shoots Philo with Lenny's gun, explaining that he set Philo up because he wanted to have Faith killed for what she knew about Jeriko One's death, and that he now intends to frame Lenny for Philo's murder. Faith has a change of heart and attacks Max, and after a hand to hand fight, Lenny manages to throw Max off the balcony to his death.

Outside the hotel, Mace is pursued by Steckler and Engelman. She manages to subdue both of them, cuffing them to a scaffold, only for other nearby police officers to attack her, triggering a riot in the crowd. Commissioner Strickland appears, restores order, and orders the two officers arrested. Engelman grabs a pistol from one of the officers and shoots himself, and Steckler is gunned down by the police when he tries to shoot Mace. Faith is arrested for Philo's murder. Lenny and Mace share a passionate kiss as the crowd celebrates the turn of the new century around them.



The film marked the first teaming of Fiennes and Bassett. Fiennes had spent most of his time before this film in British and European films, including Schindler's List. In an interview with Cinemax, Bassett said that before this film, she was typecast as victims: inclusive on the list were playing Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It and Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X.[citation needed] Now as Mace, she got to do lots of things that she did not before, including swimming from a submerged car and beating up on thugs who attack Lenny in one scene. She liked casting against type, and this role would serve as a tribute to other black actresses who played tough women on screen, including (in particular) 1970s actress Pam Grier, who was in part the inspiration for Mace.[citation needed] Bassett's line 'Right here, right now' was sampled in the 1999 single "Right Here, Right Now" by English DJ Fatboy Slim.

In order to get the large crowd scene around the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, the director hired rave promoter Philip Blaine to produce an event featuring Aphex Twin and Deee-Lite. The event was called Millennium (based on the film's plot that it was a New Year's Eve 2000 party) and tickets were only $10, plus food and drink was free. The reported attendance was 14,000 people. The event went until 2 a.m. when the fire marshall called it off because there was several inches of confetti around the entire site and cigarette butts were starting to cause small fires. No one was hurt.


Strange Days was given a limited release on October 6, 1995 in only one theater and grossed $31,062 on its opening weekend. It expanded a week later on October 13, 1995 in 1,691 theaters and grossed $3,656,012 on its opening weekend. The film went on to make $7,959,291 in North America, little more than a sixth of its $42 million production cost.[1]


The film received praise for its gritty, serious view of a possible future. Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The movie is a technical tour de force ... The pacing is relentless, and the editing, by Howard Smith, creates an urgency and desperation".[2] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised the performances of Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett: "Mr. Fiennes gleefully captures Lenny's sleaziness while also showing there is something about this schlockmeister that is worth saving, despite much evidence to the contrary. As for Ms. Bassett, she looks great and radiates inner strength even without the bone-crunching physical feats to which she is often assigned".[3] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Strange Days has a dazzling atmosphere of grunge futurism, but beneath its dark satire of audiovisual decadence lurks a naggingly conventional underworld thriller".[4] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers called the film Bigelow's "magnum opus", and wrote, "In a film of striking performances, Bassett's is the standout—she is fierce, funny and heart rending".[5] In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann wrote, "Strange Days wants to say something about faith and redemption—about the importance of maintaining one's humanity in a darkened world. That's a worthy intent, but Bigelow is so enamored of high-tech thrills, and so mesmerized by the violence she seeks to condemn, that her efforts at 11th-hour moralizing seem limp and halfhearted".[6] In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "No matter how much thought may have gone into Strange Days, terribly little has come out the other end".[7]


Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
1996 Saturn Awards Best Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Actress Angela Bassett Won
Best Director Kathryn Bigelow Won
Best Science Fiction Film Strange Days Nominated
Best Writing James Cameron, Jay Cocks Nominated


  1. Skunk Anansie – "Selling Jesus"
  2. Lords of Acid – "The Real Thing"
  3. Tricky – "Overcome"
  4. Deep Forest – "Coral Lounge"
  5. Strange Fruit – "No White Clouds"
  6. Juliette Lewis – "Hardly Wait" (PJ Harvey cover)
  7. Me Phi Me/Jeriko One – "Here We Come"
  8. Skunk Anansie – "Feed"
  9. Prong/Ray Manzarek – "Strange Days" (The Doors cover)
  10. Satchel – "Walk in Freedom"
  11. Kate Gibson – "Dance Me to the End of Love"
  12. Lori Carson/Graeme Revell – "Fall in the Light"
  13. Deep Forest feat. Peter Gabriel – "While the Earth Sleeps"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Strange Days". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 6, 1995). "New, Improved Virtual Reality, 1999". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  4. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  5. ^ Travers, Peter (October 19, 1995). "Strange Days". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  6. ^ Guthmann, Edward (October 13, 1995). "Virtual Reality Run Amok In Strange Thriller". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  7. ^ Turan, Kenneth (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02. [dead link]

External links[edit]