See...I can get you what you want, I can. I can get you anything, you just have to talk to me, you have to trust me. You can trust me, 'cause I'm your priest, I'm your shrink...I am your main connection to the switchboard of the soul. I'm the magic man...the Santa Claus of the subconscious. You say it, you think it, you can have it.
Memories are meant to fade, Lenny. They're designed that way for a reason.
Strange Days is a 1995 Cyber PunkScience Fiction movie written by James Cameron, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis.Lenny Nero (Fiennes) is a grungy ex-cop eking out a lonely, miserable existence in the urban nightmare that is 1999 Los Angeles by dealing in dreams. He sells illegal "SQUID" recordings that allow the user to directly experience moments from people's lives as if they were actually there, living every sight, sound, thought and feeling that the person doing the recording experiences. This allows the user to experience anything - sex, drugs, and even death. Although charming and suave on the surface, Lenny is deeply unhappy and pathetic, addicted to his own product and desperately reliving the happy moments from his long-dead relationship with his ex-girlfriend Faith (Lewis), a rising punk musician whom he saved from the gutter only for her to discard him when she began to make it big. The only two of his few remaining friends who don't regard him as a washed-up loser are Mace (Bassett), a bodyguard and chauffeur, and Max, a PI with ambiguous morality.Lenny's life, such as it is, begins to completely fall apart a few days before the millennium celebrations, when he anonymously receives a snuff recording that depicts the agonizing rape-murder of a prostitute he is acquainted with, whom he encountered hours before her death. Because she attempted to warn him of something concerning Faith, Lenny begins to suspect that Faith is the next target...
And I Must Scream: A SQUID deck fitted with a special amplifier can virtually lobotomize people. Since the victims are left technically alive, such incidents aren't treated as homicides, even if foul play is suspected.
Angry Black Man: Jeriko One, an outspoken gangster rapper and social activist.
As You Know: A radio talk show caller explains how the country has really gone down the toilet in the last few years.
Bald of Evil: Max, after it's revealed he's a psychotic rapist who wears a wig fitted with a SQUID recorder.
Betty and Veronica: Played with: Mace, the ass-kicking Action Girl, is the Betty; Faith, the flaky, emotionally unstable backstabber, is the Veronica. Mace wins, partly because Faith slept with Lenny's best friend and conspired with him to frame him for murder, and partly because she's, well, awesome.
Max: So I say to myself, if I turn the job down, he just gets somebody else, and I lose Faith... to coin a phrase. So to buy time, I do the skank, but I still gotta do something about Gant... I figure it's him or me. But I can't just cap him without a chump to take the fall, and who better than his girlfriend's loser ex-boyfriend... a known criminal... who has been seen hassling them in public numerous times? Lenny: And who was, regrettably, also your best fucking friend. Max: Well, no plan is perfect, Lenny. Hey, cheer up. World's gonna end in ten minutes anyway.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lenny comes off as a cross between a drug-dealer and a pimp at the start of the movie. You'd never think that he was an ex-cop (ex-vice, for that matter).
Deus ex Machina: The riot started when Mace gets beaten on by a SWAT team dissipates almost immediately just because the Police Commissioner tells everyone to calm down. To be fair, he does have a large SWAT team and National Guard unit backing him up when he does this.
Lenny: This is not like "TV-only-better"... this is life.
Evil Versus Evil: Crooked cops Steckler and Engelman vs. sleazy music producer Philo Gant. They both want Iris's SQUID recording for their own different reasons. And, of course, Max is playing the whole situation to his own advantage.
Forced To Watch: Iris' killer uses a SQUID recorder with a signal splitter to force her to see and experience her own rape and murder from his perspective. It later looks like the same fate befell Faith until it turns out that was consensual
Gambit Pileup: At one point, it looks like everyone except Lenny, Mace and Max are running some kind of complicated scheme, which are all crashing together to cause chaos. Turns out that most of them aren't, but Max is running his own Evil Plan.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Played with - Mace evidently does not give a toss about Faith and is quick to remind Lenny that it's all over between the two of them, but nevertheless ultimately ends up helping him in his efforts to protect / win her.
Informed Ability: Jeriko One is supposed to be the best rapper around, but the one song we hear from him doesn't support the notion very well.
A different version of the song is on the movie's soundtrack, and is much better than what's heard in the film.
Let's Get Dangerous: Lenny spends most of the movie as an ineffectual, much-disdained Butt Monkey punching bag. Then, towards the end, he seems to remember he used to be a cop and decides to remind everyone else of this:
Secondly, when fighting Max, he not only holds his own against a complete psychopath, but manages to win out by pulling a knife that had been stabbed into his own back out and cutting his tie — which was the only thing keeping Max from plummeting to his death. Also, we see him worrying before about his tie when he was going to a probable trap. It turns out to save his life.
Additionally, in a deleted scene, he is shown as able to manipulate his way into gaining exclusive passes to the giant End Boss party in under 5 minutes, smiling the whole time.
Little Black Dress: After spending the entire movie in suits and high-collared shirts and looking badass, we see Mace in a tiny, strappy black minidress. The effect is remarkable. It's even hotter that she comes strapped, too.
Malcolm Xerox: Jeriko One is a combination of Malcolm X and Tupac Shakur.
Murderer P.O.V.: Iris' rape-murder. Subverted and made creepier in that the murderer has the victim share the POV of herself getting raped, and the whole other layer of the murderer sending Lenny the tape so he can share the victim's POV of the murderer's POV of her getting raped.
Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: While trying to get into a party, Mace beats up on Gant's thugs before finally pulling a gun on the knife-wielding female thug. She shrugs and says, "Enjoy the party!"
OOC Is Serious Business: Lenny spends most of the film wearing loud, obnoxious suits. For the climax, he changes to a relatively conservative black pinstripe suit with grey tie to fit in.
The Oner: All of the SQUID recordings are portrayed as one long unbroken shot from a POV cam.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: an in-universe example, when Philo slips from a generic Transatlantic accent into a more Cockney one while raging at Lenny. (Michael Wincott, the actor playing Philo, is actually Canadian.)
Lenny isn't a bad guy, but he is presented as a pretty scummy, sleazy loser for a good part of the movie, until we finally learn why Mace is so devoted to him against all odds. He was the cop who comforted and took care of her son after his father murdered a man while he was in the house, apparently even going so far as to shelter him in another room so he wouldn't see his father being dragged off in handcuffs. Considering that Lenny is a white cop, Mace and her family are working-class blacks and racial tensions and police mistrust are that high in LA...Yeah, it's a big deal.
Lenny's gift for his amputee techie friend (a SQUID recording of running along a beach) also counts, though it also goes toward showing how people can develop an unhealthy fixation on SQUIDing what they can never have.
Audience reaction on this moment appears to be mixed, with half seeing the act as cruel and the other half believing it's Pet the Dog.
Red Herring: Max goes on about underground police death squads and Government Conspiracy, but really, it's all just a simple murder by two crooked, racist cops and their desperate attempt to cover their own tracks.
Rule of Three: There are three wigs with SQUID recorders hidden underneath them; one worn by Iris - which is how she recorded Jeriko One's execution - one worn by the actor Lenny pays to appear in one of the videos, and the third by Max, which is how he's able to record the murders he commits. The first two are Foreshadowing for the last one.
Sampling: Mace's quote, "Right here, right now!" would later be sampled in Fatboy Slim's song also called "Right Here, Right Now."
Sex by Proxy: The SQUID allows you to share the recorded experience of another person, leading to the obvious conclusion that it can be used to record sex. Lenny deals in a lot of smut as well as some other related merchandise, such as a teenage girl taking a shower.
Part of his sales pitch involves asking a potential customer pointing out another of the bar's patrons with a sexy girlfriend and asking how'd he like to be that guy for 20 minutes..."The right 20 minutes."
Snuff Film: "Blackjack" vids, in which the user jacked in actually experiences the SQUID wearer's death. The fairly amoral Lenny has a marked distaste for them and refuses to deal in them (the movie opens with him being annoyed at Tick for bringing him a tape of a robbery that ended with the robber's death, because he's going to have to edit the last bit out).
Villainous Breakdown: After being exposed as Jeriko One's murderer, being arrested and seeing his partner blow his own brains out rather than face a prison sentence while they were handcuffed together, Officer Steckler is not happy with Mace.
Steckler and Engelman's Ho Yay did not hurt matters.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Lenny assures Mace that getting into an exclusive New Year's party is "what he does." The next scene, they're already in the party. The scene where we find out how they got inside was left on the cutting room floor, and later included on the DVD.
Woman in Black: Mace is a black woman who wears black while on the job.
Zeerust: Leaving aside the fact that SQUID hasn't made an appearance yet, some of the film's fashions look pretty absurd, and there's also a moment with a voice-transcribing answer machine that raises an eyebrow these days. Also, the kind of outspoken gangster rap that the film portrays as part of a major social movement had gone out of style by 2000. Nor was Los Angeles quite the borderline-anarchic urban warzone the movie depicts it as either.