Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Craig R. Baxley is a former stuntman who directed three really, really good action films back-to-back. The first one is Action Jackson (1988) and the third is the Brian Bosworth vehicle Stone Cold (1991). Sandwiched in between those two is his weirdest film – one that doesn’t get as much love from action fans as the others – 1990′s Dark Angel (aka I Come in Peace). While not as quotable or explosively insane as Stone Cold (in which a man crashes a motorcycle out of a window and into a helicopter), Dark Angel is ripe for cult rediscovery. It’s certainly the best buddy-cop film I’ve ever seen about an extraterrestrial drug dealer harvesting human endorphins and decapitating people with a CD gun.
Dolph Lundgren stars as Jack Caine, which sounds like a code for stealing cocaine. And that’s just what happens in the beginning of the film, when a tall, white-haired alien rolls up on a drug deal, kills everyone in the room, and runs away with a briefcase of blow. The deal was between a gang of yuppie gangsters hilariously called the White Boys and an undercover cop, who also happened to be Caine’s partner. Caine was listening in on the deal from his car, ready to strike, but then a convenience store across the street gets robbed, so Caine ditches the earphones and runs to the rescue.
Any action scene ever set in a convenience store is amazing. There’s just something about the combination of bright fluorescent lights, cramped aisles, snacks, and violence that’s a joy to watch. The early Seagal films had a lot of great convenience store fights (Out for Justice, Hard to Kill). The Robocop scene is a classic (“Fuck me. Fuck ME. FUCK ME!”) and the ones in Menace II Society and Dark Blue really crank it up a notch on the disturbing scale. Dark Angel has a nice one too, with Lundgren delivering a traumatizing roundhouse kick to a robber’s face. The man is 6’5″ and his legs are the size of an adult male’s entire body, so roundhousing a guy in a tiny convenience store is no joke. It’s a really fun, brief scene that establishes him as a cop who plays by his own rules (the best kind of cop, in fictional movies anyway, not in real life).
After Caine’s partner is killed, he’s paired up with a mousey FBI agent named Larry Smith (Brian Benben) who believes in a clinical approach to everything. You can tell he’s the kinda guy who lays out his suit the night before and makes his sandwiches for the entire week on Sunday night. He’s there because the White Boys also stole a shit-ton of heroin from the feds, so now the FBI are involved.
Caine couldn’t care less about stolen drugs though. He just wants to know who killed his partner. The murder weapon especially interests him. It looks like a compact disc that flies around and cuts people to ribbons. The weapon and a series of bizarre drug-related murders put Larry and Caine on the trail of Talec, the alien who jacked the White Boys drugs. German gymnast and martial artist Matthias Hues, who is as tall as Lundgren, plays Talec. He wears lift boots in the film, making him tower over everyone. He did a lot of his own stunts while wearing the damn boots too, meaning that this guy is a beast in the truest sense of the word.
Speaking of stunts, Dark Angel has some fantastic ones. With his background in stunt work, Baxley had the bar set high in his mind. Some of the explosions in the film are enormous and, as he explains in the special feature interview, he wanted the actors in the shots for them. You don’t really think about it when watching a film, but actually seeing an actor in frame while a massive explosion goes off (no CGI either) makes it all the more effective. There’s also a nice scene where Talec is running across the hoods of parked cars and they’re exploding as he goes along. Matthias really performed the stunt and it looks fantastic.
Lundgren did a lot of his own stunts as well. Man, he just looks cool throughout the entire film. Rather than play a Commie or an idiot, he actually gets to display his natural charisma. He’s just a charming guy in real life and it’s shown off nicely in Dark Angel. When I say he looks “cool” in the film, I mean he rocks a denim vest, black jeans, and heaps of good ol’ fashioned attitude. It’s cool to see Lundgren like this. He even gets to drop some classic lines like “Fuck you, space man!” and “But you go in pieces, asshole!” (referring to Talec’s annoying catchphrase “I come in peace”).
With Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release, this is the first time Dark Angel has been released on anything beyond VHS in the U.S. How does she hold up? Let’s take a look…
Dark Angel is presented in 1080p HD in 1.78:1 widescreen. The natural film grain is intact and blemishes are pretty much non-existent. It’s a great transfer. There are a lot of night scenes in the film and the clarity and definition never gets lost in the darkness.
Pretty slim in this department, but there is a great interview with Baxley, Lundgren, and Benben. They mainly talk about the film’s stunts, which is fine with me. Lots of interesting anecdotes are presented, like how Baxley asked their weapons master to create gun for the alien cop that could fire faster than Robocop’s auto-9 pistol. He did, and they burned through over 300 firing pins over the course of shooting. Daaamn. This is a brief feature and definitely worth a watch. The three guys look back on the film very fondly.