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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Retro Review: Dark Angel (1990)

Dark Angel aka I Come At Peace
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues
Genre: Science Fiction Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $4 million

Plot: A renegade cop is forced to work with an FBI agent in order to bring down a group of drug dealers with sinister plans

'Action Film That Flies With Wings'

Also going by the title of 'I Come In Peace', Dark Angel is a sci-fi horror actioner that came out almost 30 years ago as I type this and whilst it didn't set the box office alight, to this day, it holds up as one of the better B-movie-type action films, complete with action set pieces, special effects and hints of sci-fi and horror all thrown into the mix. It is also directed by Craig R. Baxley who made his directorial debut with Action Jackson followed by Stone Cold, although, after that, his offerings became more obscure in the B/Z/TV movie vein. 

Set in Houston, Texas, Jack Caine is a renegade cop who chooses not to play by the rulebook and who is willing to take down the bad guys by any means necessary. When his partner is killed during an undercover drug bust, Jack goes after those responsible for his death and goes on a search for a drug the crooks are selling. He is then partnered up with an FBI agent, who by contrast, likes to do things by the book, and it isn't long until they become embroiled in an intergalactic affair and thus, the two are pursued by a mysterious figure named Talec: a weirdo with a white mullet, who kills his victims by wielding a flying disc that slices and dices & pumping in large amounts of drugs into people and sucking their brains out. In other words, he is like a drug dealer from outer space. 

This film reminded me of Dead Heat with its horror, intergalactic theme mixed with Predator 2 and it functions as a buddy cop-type film, although I wished that the Ivy Leaguer and federal agent character, Arwood was better written, because I wasn't a fan of his throughout; he was too uptight and whiny for my liking. Yet in Dolph Lundgren, his acting performance was rather pleasing and he makes an effort too, despite his limited range. Watching his turn as Jack, it was better than I expected and alas, I was a tad impressed as he gave one of the most laid-back and at eased turns I've seen of his. & watching him execute a roundhouse kick is just cool to see as well. Initially, he was offered the role of the bad guy alien dude, but instead, Lundgren chose to play the cop. 

The conflict and'' two cops who don't meet eye-to-eye but who have to work together'' thing is as much of a part of the film; although it should have been marketed as a buddy cop action film with a more recognisable and established actor in place of Brian Brianbrian as Lundgren's second major billing: he of whom for the most part, his performance is all right, but his character was too much of a Debbie downer for me to get behind and root for. 

There are explosions, some action, martial arts fights and kicks with Lundgren executing the roundhouse kick - not once but twice, and Baxley keeps the momentum going and coming in at 1.30 min, the runtime is just right for this movie. The tone is also isn't too serious, which meant I enjoyed it. 

One minor issue is that there are rarely any huge surprises or twists that I didn't see coming that Dark Angel could have a bit more of, but it is certainly one of those movies that have been slept on for years, especially action-based flicks, that has managed to gain a bit of a cult following on home video. & rightly so, because it is a bit of gem. 

Final Verdict:

A hybrid mix of the crime thriller, sci-fi, action, horror slasher, this is a surprisingly entertaining and unique take on the buddy actioner, & much like with Dead Heat and John Carpenter's They Live, Dark Angel offers far more than your regular and standard action/cop movie. It's well-produced, even though it is a low-budget B-movie affair (made at only $5million when originally it was going to be produced at $25 million) and feels inventive and different, but without sacrificing the good elements that make for a decent action flick. 

Far better than the previous offering, 1989's The Punisher - based on the Marvel Comics franchise, and a film which incurred post-production issues, right before it was consigned straight to video, Dark Angel pretty much delivers on every scale and whilst Dolph Lundgren never managed to reach the action echelon of Arnold Schwarzenneger and Slyvester Stallone in terms of box office stardom, he still does relatively well here and in the John Woo 1998 offering, Blackjack

By today's standards, this one still holds up pretty well and with that, Craig R. Baxley has crafted a nifty little fun and entertaining buddy-like out-of-this-world action movie that is ripe for rediscovery and one that sci-fi horror fans should give it a spin.


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