“I come in peace.”
“And you go in pieces.”
Perhaps two of 80s action cinema’s most iconic lines; the first whispered by melanin-deficient German actor, Matthias Hues; the second delivered in garbled monotone by hulking Swede, Dolph Lundgren, in what is, perhaps, the craziest action/buddy movie of the decade. Yes, I speak of Dark Angel (better known to U.S. audiences as I Come in Peace), a violent sci-fi shoot-em-up that’s equal parts 48 Hours and Alien Nation, and now comes to Blu-ray courtesy of the bastion of awesome that is Scream Factory.
Lundgren stars as Detective Jack Caine, a Dirty Harry-esque Houston cop famous for his shoot first, ask questions later style. Caine is hellbent on curtailing the drug traffic in his beloved city, with a goal of bringing down the “White Boys”; a gang of suit-and-tie traffickers overseen by druglord, Victor Manning (Sherman Howard).
After a heroin heist leads to the death of several federal employees, Caine finds himself saddled with a new partner; a by-the-book FBI agent named Smith (played wonderfully by Brian Benben) who completely cramps Caine’s style. While the two attempt to follow the blood trail back to Manning, it becomes apparent that a new player is in town; one that uses weapons and tactics the likes of which Caine has ever seen. He is Talec (Hues), an intergalactic drug dealer who’s come to Earth to harvest human endorphins; an essential component of his highly addictive product.
Whilst in pursuit of the incredibly strong and agile Talec, Caine and Smith encounter a fellow lawman in Azeck (Jay Bilas); a cop from Talec’s homeworld who warns the constantly bickering duo that if Talec is successful in cultivating materials for his drugs on Earth, it will open the floodgates for the rest of the galaxies’ pushers to come and join the harvest.
When I first happened upon Dark Angel it was on VHS, under its U.S. title of I Come in Peace. The promise of Lundgren and Benben (who was quite popular at the time due to his role in HBO’s Dream On; a sexy, farcical comedy series that was one of the network’s first stabs at original programming) battling an alien drug dealer was just too enticing to pass up on. I was immediately taken by the film, both for its balls-to-the-wall action, as well as its surprisingly effective humor and chemistry between the two leads. The usually stone-faced Lundgren was especially surprising, here, as he really seemed to loosen-up and raise his game when paired with the diminutive, quick-witted Benben. I think that, were it not for this oddball pairing, Dark Angel, with its fairly formulaic action and cornball, ultra-macho dialogue, would have probably been just another in a (then) long line of action/sci-fi hybrids, but, the infusion of Benben’s comedic talents really elevate both the film and Lundgren to another level, entirely, which is why I think it’s become the cult-classic that it is. It’s just a hell of a lot of fun, and it still holds up remarkably nearly twenty five years on!
Scream Factory releases Dark Angel on Blu-ray in an impressive 1.78:1 1080p transfer that boasts a mostly crisp and vibrant image throughout. While the film was released in 1990, it still has that 80s action movie aesthete, with gauzy, smoky cinematography that does hinder sharpness at times, and all but quashes any semblance of fine detail at a distance, but, in close-ups, detail is quite evident. Dark Angel is a colorful flick, with lots of theatrical-style lighting washes using what I like to term “the 80s color wheel”, which is, essentially, neon shades of all varieties. We get hot reds, hot pinks, hot blues, purples, and greens; it’s a virtual smorgasbord of neon, and it all looks lovely. Darks are handled well, with no sign of excess grain/noise in the shadows. There is a constant filmic grain, but it’s never overpowering, and I rather like the fact that it’s there.
The film’s original stereo soundtrack is given a nice multichannel goosing with a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that really does a fine job in spreading the sound out across the room, but, as (almost) always, I found myself gravitating toward the 2.0 DTS HD mix as it sounded more natural and robust.
This isn’t one of Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition titles, so there isn’t much by way of extras, but we do get a great retrospective/interview featurette that offers reminisces by stars Lundgren and Benben, as well as director, Craig R. Baxley. We also get the film’s original trailer and a fairly extensive stills gallery (all in HD).
Dark Angel offers solid thrills, a few chills, and an abundance of laughs. It’s a sci-fi/action b-movie elevated by competent direction from Baxley, a great supporting turn from Benben, and a disarmingly human performance by Lundgren, who, up to that point, really wasn’t much more than a walking slab of meat in his films. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation is top-notch, and, while we don’t get the usual amount of spoils, the bonuses included here are a must for fans of the film. Very highly recommended!