They don’t make them like this anymore. Could you imagine a low-budget action movie with this number of sets, decent actors and real cars blowing up in 2014? It’s a damn shame, but we still have fine films like this to revisit.
Dolph Lundgren seems like a nice guy. Ludicrously smart (advanced degree in Chemical Engineering), great martial artist (former European karate champion), used to go out with Grace Jones and hung out with Andy Warhol, he’s one of those fellas who you really hope isn’t an insane right-winger who treats women like dirt. Anyway, this film was made while he was at the height of his initial fame, after “The Punisher” and just before “Universal Soldier”, and is absolutely chock-full of bad-ass-dom.
I love how the first few minutes of this film couldn’t be more late-80s. A rich scumbag has a CD player in his car, surrounded by wood panelling – and after he gets blown up and the credits are rolling, we see the soundtrack is done by Jan Hammer! Jan Hammer is the 80s! Anyway, Dolph’s partner dies while undercover on a drug sale, because Dolph was stopping a robbery next door, but because he’s a whisker away from busting the entire White Boys drug ring (yes, that’s the name of their gang, and they are all white I suppose) he gets a new partner. Not just any partner, though, an FBI agent who you may recognise from sitcom “Dream On”, Brian Benben. You think these two guys – one the tough-dressing monster and the other the suit-wearing rules-follower, will have different approaches to tackling the bad guys? You bet your ass they will!
I sort of wanted more of Dolph’s old partner, after he replied to “where did you go to school?” with “The university of suck my dick”, but Dolph does his best with the quips. The film is full of fun little performances – as well as Benben, there’s ultimate That Guy actor Sam Anderson as an evil corporate guy, Michael J Pollard (of “Sleepaway Camp 3″ fame) as a guy called Boner, and Betsy Brantley as Dolph’s on-again-off-again girlfriend and local coroner.
The other fun performance is from Matthias Hues, described on IMDB as “Bad Alien – Talec”. He’s the guy you call if you want your slightly wooden action hero to look less wooden; he’s huge, has that great dead eyed look and convincingly throws people around (we also covered his performance in “Digital Man”). Without wanting to spoil too much, this film joins the ranks of that small but well-loved genre, “two different aliens fight each other on Earth”, but you know it’ll be down to Dolph to finish him off.
There’s a surprising amount of fun stuff in this, lots of little details. There’s the photo Dolph gets sent in the mail, from the guy who killed his partner, showing him with two beautiful women on a tropical island with a sarcastic message on it; Dolph’s scientist friend and his nuclear-strength coffee; the hideously 80s apartment that Dolph lives in; and the decent rapport two such different actors have in Lundgren and Benben. But it’s not just a laugh – there’s a couple of good fight scenes in there, and more cars blowing up than you’d get in anything but the biggest-budget movies these days.
Okay, it was never going to win any awards, and unless you were brought up on 80s action films, you might not love it as much as I did. But considering the pedigree – low budget, no big names, one of the B-list of action superstars, this film is hugely enjoyable. If you don’t love comically mismatched cops chasing a drug-dealer-killing alien round the streets of Houston, then I’m pretty sure we’d struggle to be friends. Add in a great quip ending and a surprisingly decent central performance, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Rating: thumbs up
PS. This film’s US title was apparently “I Come In Peace”, said repeatedly by Hues’ alien. Because he kills everyone he meets, right? Okay, “Dark Angel” really makes no sense whatsoever as a title, but it’s still tons better than that. Plus, there’s like ten other films called “Dark Angel”, so you might trick someone after one of those to buy your movie (okay, that’s a terrible justification).