Judge David Johnson comes in peace.
"I come in peace."
"And go in pieces."
Facts of the Case
A madman is on the loose. Bodies are turning up with strange puncture wounds in the head and torso. No one has any answer, save for Detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren, Universal Soldier), a hotshot cop who has no respect for the rules and has been known to be a cannon…of the loose persuasion if you get my drift.
A routine investigation into a scumbag crime-lord brings Caine into the crosshairs of an extraterrestrial drug dealer, who's come down from the stars to harvest sweet, sweet brain juice from humans. Hence the puncture wounds, and hence the galactic ass-whipping he's about to receive at the hands of our hero.
Between this and Red Scorpion my Dolph Lundgren Bucket List is nearly complete (all that remains is for me to summon up the gumption to sit in front of 1989's The Punisher). I knew very little about this film except there was an alien of some kind involved and Dolph Lundgren at some point tells the alien to "go in pieces," which makes me think the writers started with this line and worked backwards.
Hey, whatever works. And for the most part, Dark Angel (aka I Come in Peace) works. Not so much as a coherent motion picture. But as a gonzo slice of B-grade sci-fi tomfoolery, dropping to us just at the beginning of the roaring '90s? Not too shabby.
Start with Dolph, who's looking pretty spry. He's lively and charismatic and seems to be genuinely enjoying his foray. The man's physical presence is still solid but not nearly the cut slab of granite from Rocky IV or Masters of the Universe. He looks sort of lanky actually, but that's cool, because the gangly proportions allow his lightning-fast karate kicks to wow even more on screen. Director Craig R. Baxley deploys Dolph well enough, getting him involved in a handful of fight scenes, but mysteriously drops the ball for the finale, during the final confrontation with the alien.
I blame the special effects guys. They had whipped up this decent prop, the alien's narcotic-sucking tube that flies out of his hand like a grappling hook. Detective Caine has an intimate experience with the protuberance (not that intimate) during the final showdown and what should have been the showstopper turns into a bizarre slapstick sequence.
Up to that point expect a lot of bang for your buck, particularly in the pyrotechnics department. In the accompanying retrospective, Baxley reveals that a once-promised $30 million budget surprisingly shrunk to $7 million. With that pittance, it's a near-miracle they were able to blow up so much stuff, but they did, and the result is satisfying: multiple actors running from real explosions with terrified looks on their faces.
Decent Blu-ray adaptation from Shout! Factory. The 1.78:1/1080p transfer is passable, though don't expect to be wowed by clarity; the visuals are pockmarked with grain throughout. The DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track offers a moderate aural experience. So-so tech specs aside, you'd be well-served to check out the weighty retrospective featuring interviews with Baxley and Lundgren and co-star Brian Benben.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is fun and all, but let's not kid ourselves: Dark Angel is dumb. Intergalactic drug dealers? An FBI agent who never stops whining? Alien makeup effects that begin and end with milky contacts lenses?
It's all quite stupid and overheated, but I have a feeling if you don't like Dark Angel you're probably a communist.
Not guilty. Protuberance!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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