Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dark Angel

   Why on Earth this movie is called Dark Angel is beyond me. Its more appropriate, yet still terrible original title is "I Come in Peace". A combo of crappy titles and lame box art probably kept this early 90's gem from finding a larger audience but make no mistake, this is a heck of a fun ride. If you like cop flicks, crime thrillers, aliens, and shootouts, you'll dig Dark Angel, It's an action/mystery/buddy cop movie about a loose cannon and a by-the-book (I'll let you guess which one star Dolph Lundgren is) who start to realize their simple drug war case, may not be so simple after all.

   And yes, I totally said aliens. Dark Angel is like The Terminator smashed together with Lethal Weapon, but instead of cyborg killers, you've got alien killers. The 'why' is really cool though and is probably Dark Angel's most effective secret weapon. It seems at first glance like a really stupid movie (in a good way), and it is- right up until it's not so brainless after all. It's still not high class cinema, but the concepts in the movie are really interesting. I'd love to go into detail here, but I don't wanna spoil the very movie I'm currently recommending.

    Regardless, it's an 80's sci-fi/action movie at heart, but it stands a bit apart from the usual grouping. The story is both absurd and smart at once, but only because it takes what could've been a stupid premise and turns it into a surprisingly effective one. Pardon my beating around the bush, but finding out what exactly it is will be a big part of the fun. Aside from the story, there's plenty of straightforward wit, one-liners, and explosive action scenes to keep the film chugging along. Still, every so often, the movie reaches beyond the base trappings of an 80's shoot-em-up flick, and grabs on to loftier ambitions.

   Dolph Lundgren is fitting in the lead as Detective Caine, a hard luck cop with a reputation for doing things his own way. Unfortunately, this causes a mess of things for him, and lands him with a new and uptight FBI partner who is excessively 'by the book'. Brian Benben plays the FBI special agent Arwood 'Larry' Smith, and he does it well. He's annoying, but kind of endearing in his own way. He's the definition of a character who grows on you. Him and Lundgren have a almost-unique but reliable buddy comedy dynamic. It's not quite Schwarzenegger and Belushi in Red Heat, but it works well enough. You end up caring about both of them, which is cool.

   The acting is uniformly serviceable, with the only occasionally weak link being Lundgren himself. He's really good at times, but stale at others- which is a shame because Benben is on point throughout. Nevertheless, stellar acting wasn't something I expected from Dark Angel. I just expected a lot of shootouts, explosions, car chases, and alien daring-do. I got all of that and then some. Dark Angel pulses with energy and creativity, pulling out the stops on the set pieces and the practical effects with neat little alien gadgets. The movie is unique and exciting while thankfully never trying to overdo it. Dark Angel gets a full recommendation from me.

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