This stylish but overly simple sci-fi thriller isset just four years into the future, a few days away from the endof the millennium. The plot, stoked by the fires the RodneyKing/Mark Fuhrman scandals have ignited, hinges on seething racialtensions that have transformed Los Angeles into a crime-riddendanger zone despite omnipresent police. The civil unrest iscompounded by Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), a world-famous rap artistwhose lyrics prophesize and endorse a race-riot revolution come theyear 2000.Amidst the mayhem, Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), an ex-cop turnedcharm-oozing hustler, ekes out a living selling "clips":virtual-reality CDs containing actual human experiences, tappedstraight from the cerebral cortex. The 3-D multisensory snippets,which allow the viewer to fully relive past events, cancontain something as innocent as a ski trip, but more oftenthey provide an excitement the customers can't get in reallife, be it a forbidden sexual encounter or an adrenaline-pumpingrobbery. Though Nero's sense of morality seems sketchy at best, hedoes set one definite limit: He will not deal in "blackjack" snuffdiscs in which a murder or accidental death occurs. But when ananonymous wire-head sends him a disc depicting the rape and murderof an acquaintance as seen through the assailant's eyes, Nerobecomes entwined in a cover-up tied to an unsolved assassinationthat threatens to tear apart the metropolis.Fiennes' slick but vulnerable Nero carries this movie with hisinnate charisma; his Nero is an intense, perceptive, intriguinglydichotomous character whom we don't get to know as well as we'dlike. Angela Bassett's portrayal of Mace Nero's best friend,personified conscience and grudging bodyguard is a strikingcounterbalance. As Nero's ex-girlfriend Faith, a Courtney Love-likepunk singer who finds herself consorting with some dangerouscharacters, Juliette Lewis plays her role with zest, but thecharacter itself isn't that interesting, nor is it much of astretch for the actress. Michael Wincott as a clip-addicted,Lucifer-voiced music producer, Philo Faith's new flameand Jeriko One's manager is so far over the top in his malevolencethat he reeks of red herrings from the onset. The script, even ifprescient regarding technology and the increasing volatility amongraces, is deflated by holes, predictabilities, repetition andanticlimax, making this film little more than two-and-a-half hoursof enjoyable action, futuristic gadgetry and characters perenniallyon the brink of being compelling. "Strange Days" is an ambitiouseffort on the part of action director Kathryn Bigelow ("PointBreak") and co-writer/producer James Cameron ("True Lies"), butultimately it's a letdown given the expectations raised by thecast, crew and concept. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks. Produced by James Cameron and Steven-Charles Jaffe. A Fox release. Thriller. Rated R for intense disturbing violence, sexuality and pervasive strong language. Running time: 145 min.