“Strange Days” is set in Los Angeles during the last few days of the 20th Century and the city is ready to blow up. Citizens are on the verge of violent civil disobedience while riot cops prowl the streets, cars are set alight while stores are looted, and even Santa gets mugged right out in the open. Relishing this turbulent milieu is Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), a former LAPD vice squad detective turned seedy dealer of “clips,” or first-hand experiences recorded directly from the cerebral cortex by the wearer of a SQUID (Super-conducting Quantum Interference Device).
The tech makes just about any experience possible for Lenny’s clients, but they are mostly drawn to the seamier side of humanity. Lenny has no qualms about selling it to them, although he just about draws the line at snuff clips. His line of business earns the constant disapproval of his best friend Mace (Angela Bassett), a hardworking limo driver who holds a candle for him. After a hard day’s peddling, he likes to kick back with a bottle of liquor and torture himself with clips of his ex, Faith (Juliette Lewis). She’s a singer now dating Philo (Michael Wincott), a sinister music promoter whose number one client, rapper Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), was seemingly gunned down in a gang-related incident.
Meanwhile, an acquaintance of Lenny’s is in trouble. Sex worker Iris (Brigitte Bako) is on the run from Steckler and Engelman (Vincent D’Onofrio and William Fichtner), two corrupt cops who are trying to silence her. She drops a clip disc into Lenny’s car but gets killed before she can tell him about it, and her sadistic assailant also sends him a clip of her brutal murder. With his well-hidden conscience now pricked, can Lenny reveal the conspiracy before the killer pins the crime on him?