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Thursday, October 17, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - Dark Angel (AKA I Come in Peace)

By David Massey



I know it’s not my job to convince you that any of the genre films given the ‘Criterion’ treatment by Scream Factory’s Blu-ray line are cinema genius or, even, classic camp but it is a very thin line between ‘Dark Angel’ and films like ‘The Terminator’ or ‘RoboCop’. That ‘line’, more often than not, comes largely down to budget. ‘Dark Angel’ (or ‘I Come in Peace’ as it will always be to me) is no more far-fetched in story than the films it aspires to be and manages to make up for its small budget with enough pyrotechnic absurdity to make Michael Bay blush and one-liners that could give Arnie a run for his money.

Dark Angel
The Film:

‘Dark Angel’ follows detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) whose investigation of Houston’s organized drug smuggling syndicate, ‘The White Boys’ (a tongue-in-cheek troupe of Patrick Bateman clones straight out of 1980’s yuppie culture), is interrupted by an extra-terrestrial drug-harvesting alien and the cosmic cop on his trail. Okay, so, when I put it like that, it does sound more than a bit silly but this is the stuff of comic books; it’s incredibly violent and could easily accompany films like Spawn, Predator, or Darkman.

The humanoid alien has come to earth to steal heroin which he then injects into his victims using a snake-like probe. The drug results in a tidal-wave of endorphins which the ghost-eyed E.T. extracts from their brains using a giant spike directly to their foreheads. Come on, that’s kinda cool... right?

In a time when CD’s were a mysterious technology, ironically (*wink wink*), the alien’s primary weapon is a razor sharp, self-propelled shiny silver disc that is tuned to the electro-magnetic frequency of humans. His back-up weapon is a kick-ass gun that fires 3-times the speed of the one used in ‘RoboCop’. That was literally the request made of the prop department and achieved to great effect; there are seemingly more explosions than dialogue. I started counting fire balls a few minutes into the film and even before I got to the climax, I lost count somewhere around 36. You could make an epic drinking game out of this one and be fall-down drunk half-way through.

 For all its hokey, misguided ambitions (and for what it’s worth) this is Lundgren’s best performance. He’s fresh-faced, human, 99% intelligible and, in a sharp about-face to the tough-guy cliché, he collects art, sips Cabernet, and longs for romance. It’s a weird take but they balance it out by giving him one of the cheesiest action-movie one-liners of all time. Alien Drug Dealer: ‘I come in peace.’ Dolph: ‘and you go in pieces, asshole.’ It’s pretty unfor(give)getable.

 Apparently, ‘Dark Angel’ (the original title) was envisioned as a big-budget blockbuster (aren’t they all) and was written by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Death Becomes Her, Spider-Man). If you’ve seen it, you might think me an optimist but this really could have gone either way. The fact that it went the way of the forgotten late-night video rental is fitting but there is some really vintage stuff here and it’s never boring.


The Disc:

The cover art is a pretty impressive, photo-realistic painting that’s got some nice symmetry to it. It’s reversible and you have the option of the less-aesthetic video cover on the inside with the title ‘”I” Come in Peace’. Shame they couldn’t have put that title on the better cover. As for the image, it gets pretty noisy from time to time. Much of the film takes place at night and, in some scenes, we get sharp blacks while others are grainy as hell.

 I was kind of sad that we don’t get an audio commentary with this one but we do get a great little documentary, ‘A Look Back’. The director, Craig R. Baxley (better known for his work as a stunt coordinator), Lundgen, and Brian Benben (‘Deam On’ / ‘Radio Land Murders’) reminisce (a bit apologetically) with some genuine nostalgia for the film. I did notice that some of the interviews were actually repeated within the same documentary – someone wasn’t paying attention – but, on the whole, it’s a good watch.

The Features:
  • Documentary ‘A Look Back at Dark Angel’ – Interviews with Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, and Director Craig R. Baxley
  • Trailer
  • Poster & Still Gallery


The Specs:
  • 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.78:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1990
  • Runtime: 91 Minutes
  • Rated R

Final Grades:

Story: A / In different hands and with a better budget, this could have been a genre classic.

Presentation quality: B / The film is grainy from time to time.

Scare factor: D / It’s not really a horror movie but plenty of violence and imposing white-eyed aliens.

Gore Factor: C / They didn’t go all out with this one but there’s lots of spikes to the heads.

Repeat view-ability: B / For a 12-year-old boy, this is better than Predator!

Add Dark Angel to your collection, click HERE!

Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review, Prince of Darkness!



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