Dark City is a noir looking film set ina dystopian society in which humans are being toyed with by another group who call themselves "The Strangers". The humans are unaware of this intervention by this group, and consequently are never quite sure who they are.
A night's "tuning" includes the dismantling and building of the city itself, and then the bald-headed Strangers go into the new houses and seek out their residents. To these they give new memories. One day you may be peddling apples, the next you'll be a millionaire.
But you'll never remember the one you had last.
FROM HERE ON CONTAINS EVEN MORE DETAILED SPOILERS
This continues for what we imagine to be sometime... but it could be something relatively recent. If you are changing someone's memories every night it doesn't take long for you to forget how long it's been going on. In fact I would say it would be nigh impossible.
So there's the basics, humans being programmed...will an auto worker have no problems transitioning into a CEO job? Will a man who has been given the memories of a killer become one?
And therein lies the rub, for someone has woken up in the middle of being reconditioned. And it hasn't exactly gone well. It's gone so very NOT WELL, in fact, that he no longer falls asleep with the rest of the people when the Strangers do their work. And he begins to remember what he can't remember. Namely, sunlight...daytime.
On the run from the police as a murderer John Murdoch must try to piece together a semblance of a life and discover if he is merely the sum of the memories he owns or if he is his own man. He has a wife, or so he believes he does. Upon wakening he questions everything, particularly the blood dripping from his head. He searches for home and those who know him. He finds clippings of his supposed "crimes" on his person. All in all, a confusing night.
The Strangers notice that one of the humans is not sleeping during the "tuning" as the others are. This is when the the character of Mr. Hand comes into play. Richard plays the part of Mr. Hand, one of the more sinister of the Strangers (and that's saying something) He is convinced that the only way for them to track Murdoch down is for one of them to be injected with the same memories, so that they will be able to follow along.
However, the plan begins to go all too wrong. Mr. Hand, injected with the memories of a would-be killer is quickly becoming one, leaving a bloody trail of carnage just a few steps behind Murdoch. Murdoch, meanwhile, has managed to convince the police chief and his "wife" that he isn't completely insane... and neither of them can remember those little nagging things like daytime, sunlight, and other places beyond the city limits.
Mr. Hand closes in on Murdoch as Murdoch finally find the fabled "Shell Beach" that's advertised everywhere. It's nothing more than a brick wall. Undaunted- or perhaps extremely daunted... the chief and Murdoch smash and break their way through the wall to see what's there.
The problem is, nothing is. As the chief loses his grip, we see a tiny little city nestled in the middle of space.
This is where the film should have ended. Cue Twilight Zone music and so forth. But because test audiences didn't react well, they ended up with Murdoch making the world a better place courtesy of a new set of implanted memories teaching him how. Which is a little bit cheap, in my opinion.
Very nice Richard scene at the end of the film though...Mr. Hand is slumped against the wall and explains that he is dying... a human's memories were never meant for his kind. But he wanted to know what it was like... to feel. Murdoch responds that if you wanted to find humanity, they were looking in the wrong place, and he taps his heart. Mr. Hand's slight tilt of the head and "huh?" look is so masterfully done that when I initially saw the movie in theaters, I was a bit choked up.