BR: Dark Angel / I Come in Peace (1990)

April 3, 2020 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Scream Factory / Unobstructed View

Region: A

Released:  August 27, 2013

Genre:  Science-Fiction / Action

Synopsis: Two ill-paired detectives track down an alien drug dealer stealing valuable human adrenaline from its victims.

Special Features:  Making-of featurette with director Craig R. Baxley and starts Dolph Lundgren and Brian benben (24:19) / Theatrical Trailer / Stills Gallery (4:06) / Reversible “I Come in Peace” sleeve art.




Due to a pair of U.S. theatrical releases that shared similar titles, the makers of Dark Angel chose to rebrand their film for the North American market using the lone phrase which an alien whisper-speaks prior sucking human adrenaline from his victims and spiking a hole in their foreheads – “I Come in Peace.”

The ad campaign was built around that tagline, plus the usual montage of insane explosions, gunfire, physical hits, and quick catch-phrases, and you can assuredly opine that this Dolph Lundgren actioner might not have earned its deserved cult status so quickly had it not been for that name change.

In the lengthy making-of featurette on Scream Factory’s very necessary Blu-ray edition, director and ace stuntman Craig R. Baxley says he was approached  to direct what was initially a $20-25 million dollar sci-fi flick, but the script by Jonathan Tydor (Dead Connection, The King’s Guard) and Jurassic Park’s David Koepp (under the pseudonym Leonard Maas, Jr.) had to be tweaked to suit the revised budget of roughly $5 million – a steep drop, indeed; one wonders if the original budget was a tease to get enough of a team together and greenlight what may have been conceived all along as a B-level, direct-to-video title.

Baxley’s expertise in delivering action was one reason he was hired, but his brilliant knack for extracting production value from the skills of his effects and stunt team paid off when he used saved time and funds to build up action sequences, and as taut as the production is, Dark Angel is both a beautifully shot film and features some amazing stunt work, much of it also performed by its two very tall athletic leads.

The story is actually pretty lean: ‘loose cannon’ Det. Jack Caine (Lundgren, fresh from The Punisher) is teamed with by-the-book twerp Special Agent Smith (Dream On’s Brian Benben) to solve a strange series of murders in which men & women from diverse socio-economic strata show up with deep lacerations and bullet holes in their heads.

The coroner / Caine’s ex-squeeze Diane Pallone (Betsy Brantley) notes the victims lost their adrenaline and were killed with a poke to the brain, and Caine’s quick winnowing of weird details leads to the immediate conclusion that their man is an alien – a fact that’s soon proved true when an alien cop (recent college basketball grad Jay Bilas, sporting a bad haircut) enters the picture.

The alien villain (German pentathlon champion Matthias Hues) roams Los Angeles, claims his targets, and fills small vials with the million dollar goo he’ll presumably bring back to his home planet, and most of the film is propelled by chases and massive combustible kabooms rather than intricate plotting, but Koepp and Tydor’s script works because it’s still just a standard buddy cop film, right down to cheeky attitude, smart-assed exchanges (including some brief nonsense with the inimitable Michael J. Pollard), and the film’s memorable Schwarzeneggeresque end quote, “And you go in pieces, asshole!” which Caine delivers after the alien utters his catch-phrase one last time.

It’s fun to watch Benben playing a federal weasel, Lundgren was in tip-top shape, dishing out head-kicks and body-slams, and like his comedic sidekick, he’s often close to the pyrotechnics. Baxley blows up cars, buildings, Christmas trees, and sets up a pretty spectacular fight in a cement factory where it’s very clear the actors are doing their stunts and running just metres ahead of flames. Even a car chase through a mall is expertly handled, but stunts aside, you could say Lundgren and Hues are the stars of the film.

In his film debut, Hues may not have much material to work with, and his acting chops are more comic book than Method, but his 6 foot 8” presence is impressive, as are the overwhelming leaps and runs he performs. Editor Mark Helfrich (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Predator, and Baxley’s prior cult hit Action Jackson) keeps scenes moving but never rushed, and Mark Irwin’s cinematography embraces the purple, pink, blue, and soft red hues of the era, but never makes them gaudy; Dark Angel is a film that looks & sounds its age, but it’s also a benchmark in the right aesthetic decisions which make the Blu-ray transfer especially delightful for the film’s modest legion of fans.

Perhaps the weakest element in the mix may be Jan Hammer’s score, written soon after his 4-year stint as Miami Vice’s lead composer. Hammer’s approach is all-synth and very rhythmic, but perhaps because of the action scenes, his underscore was at the mercy of the sound effects. In fact, in playing the film’s original Ultra-Stereo 2.0 mix, it’s clear the final audio was mixed with dialogue and music levels deliberately tame so the explosions and gunfire pummel the listener. The 5.1 mix offers slightly better balance, but those wanting to crank the film and enjoy Hammer’s still-unreleased music in stereo will be disappointed.

Scream’s transfer is uniformly solid, and the making-of featurette stitches together interviews with director Baxley and actors Lundgren and Benben to cover the whole production. (There’s one slight editorial gaffe in which footage of Benben detailing his close proximity to the effects is repeated near the end.)

After a trio of feature films – Action Jackson (1988) Dark Angel (1990), and Stone Cold (1991) – Baxley has stayed in TV, directing assorted TV movies and mini-series, including adaptations of Stephen King’s Storm of the Century (1999), Rose Red (2002), and Kingdom Hospital (2004). His last feature film to date is Under Pressure (1997).



© 2020 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  — Starlog Director Interview —  Composer Filmography
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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