Traveling back in time isn't simple, as James Cole (Bruce Willis) learns the hard way. Imprisoned in the 2030s, James is recruited for a mission that will send him back to the 1990s. Once there, he's supposed to gather information about a nascent plague that's about to exterminate the vast majority of the world's population. But, aside from the manic Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), he gets little in the way of cooperation, not least from medical gatekeepers like Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe).
When thugs employed by a crime boss lead a vicious assault on Dr. Peyton Wilder (Liam Neeson), leaving him literally and psychologically scarred, an emergency procedure allows him to survive. Upon his recovery, Wilder can find solace only by returning to his scientific work developing synthetic skin, and seeking revenge against the crime boss. He assumes a phantom avenger persona called Darkman, who, with malleable facial qualities, is able to infiltrate and sow terror in the criminal community.
Scientist Peyton Westlake (Arnold Vosloo) returns to his lab believing he has disposed of his nemesis, mobster Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake), who gave him the hideous burns that transformed him into his alter ego, Darkman. While Darkman is perfecting an artificial skin that will restore his old appearance, Durant inexplicably returns to torment him. Overcome by rage, Darkman disguises himself with the artificial skin, setting out to infiltrate Durant's world and bring him to justice.
Burn-scarred scientist Peyton Westlake (Arnold Vosloo) roams the night as his alter ego, the cloaked Darkman. When Darkman, who often steals from the corrupt, crosses drug kingpin Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey), he finds a worthy adversary. Rooker tricks Darkman into an operation, implanting a remote-control device in his mind. To free himself from his enemy, Darkman must now take down Rooker or die -- a job that will draw the recluse unexpectedly close to his target's family.