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Donnie Darko (15)



Review by: Simon Bell l Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal; Commentary by selected cast and crew including Richard Kelly, Drew Barrymore, Katherine Ross and Jean Malone; 20 deleted and extended scenes with optional director's commentary; Interviews with 20 cast and crew members; B roll footage; The Philosophy of Time Travel; Website gallery; Artwork gallery; UK art exhibition; 'They Made Me Do It' - making of the art gallery; Cunning Visions gallery; TV spots; Cast and crew filmographies.

NO, NOT a long lost member of the X-Men, but a messed-up teenager whose only outlet for his trapped-in-late-80s-suburban-hell frustrations is his schizoid lunar wanderings of body and mind.

Young first-time director, Richard Kelly (26 when the film was made), comes from the same School of Super Spook presided over by Principal David Lynch. Not only does Kelly's black as coal satire simply reek of future cult classic status, like the best of Lynch it's much better when seen for a second time.

Whether this is to fathom out the time travel allegory or to cipher if it was all just a dream, Donnie Darko is one of those movies that you can watch again and again and still feel that it's brand spanking new.

In it, schoolkid Donnie has problems. One of them - a big, hairy problem with monstrous, bucked gnashers and bunny ears - wakes him in the night and whispers apocalyptic messages before instructing him to carry out mischievous deeds.

There's no point in telling you what it all means. Go see it and make up your own mind. Needless to say, however, a la Lynch, it gets even more weird.

In the central role, Jake Gyllenhaal looks like the third member of a triumvirate including Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire (albeit a much darker third member.) A mopey, sulky teenager governed by fuck fantasies by day; a Mr Hyde-like, somnambulistic worker of chaos by night, Gyllenhaal plays in both dimensions equally well.

There's great support in the form of old pros such as Mary O'Donnell (Mummy Darko) and new pretenders like Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sis Darko on film and off).

Mention has to be made, meanwhile, of Patrick Swayze, as a self-help guru with a few dark secrets (literally) in the closet. Of course, Swayze sums up the 80s as much as the Rubik's Cube (which also makes a cameo) and Tears for Fears (whose Mad World is played against a stunning camera pan of characters' faces worthy of anything PT Anderson can muster).

It's difficult to pigeonhole Donnie Darko, so genre-busting a movie is it. Whether a sci-fi fable in the tradition of Repo Man (1984), or a plain old satirical take on ordinary American suburbia, Kelly's weird and wonderful offbeat debut benefits no end from its flight of pure and imaginative fantasy.

By the way, don't try and be clever first time round. Just enjoy. You're guaranteed to find the film a little more digestible, if not even funnier, next time.

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