All of these excursions receive only cursory development. They feel like token attempts by filmmakers who have lost sight of their basic premise to cover as many bases as possible. Instead of an artful dodger dancing on the edge of the apocalypse, Lenny becomes just another action-movie protagonist caught up in a contrived love triangle with murderous consequences.
Bigelow is much more successful at rendering an image of Los Angeles four years from now that feels at once familiar and futuristic. As the title implies, her vision of the City of Angels (and by extension the rest of the world) is spiritually consistent with that of another chronicler of the city's dark side: Jim Morrison. Strange days, indeed. Bigelow portrays the metropolis as a brutally violent, morally bankrupt human cesspool where crime runs rampant, the wreckage of burning cars litters the streets, racism pits cops against the people they are supposed to protect, and the ever-present chaos reinforces the drive for immediate sensory gratification -- in other words, not too different from the way it is right now.
But Bigelow and company insist on picking lint with all their unnecessary subplots while the larger thematic thread unravels. They start out probing how our obsessive search for momentary escape from an eroding outside world only hastens our collapse but quickly cave in to serving up a generic good guy/bad guy tale. Lenny Nero makes the most of his shot at redemption; too bad the same cannot be said for the entire movie. But like Angela Bassett, it looks great.