Dark Angel aka I Come in Peace (1990) Review by RevTerry

Fictional cops are fun shit. They are always the last good ones left in a crime-ridden city, instilled with an unwavering sense of right or a personal quest for justice, going above (or below) the law to fuck some bad guys up and clean the streets. I wouldn't exactly say the same thing about the real ones. I mean, I laugh at douchebag campers getting their head lopped off, but I wouldn't want Jason to show up and do his thing when I was roasting some hot dogs in the forest (you feel me?). Anyway, I enjoy a good (or good bad) law and order shoot-em-up regularly. Luckily, it's a staple of Hollywood, and there is no shortage of vigilant odd couples for me to watch from several eras. Every year we get a new renegade badass who bucks against an unhelpful or corrupt system as he takes down an evil criminal circuit at the same time. I'm usually down, it's kind of hard to fuck up that kind of thing or make it unwatchable. Even better-- is when that lone-wolf maverick is forced to work with another badass, one that is the complete opposite, in some (probably stereotypical) way for the sake of hijinks. Some of the best cop films are of that “buddy” variety. The grizzled veteran gets a new young, more tanned or reckless partner, and they spend most of the movie butting heads in charming ways, in between uncovering a drug ring that goes all the way to the mayor's office (or something). Maybe the new cop is a huge nerd who plays it close to the book, a transplant from another government sector( country, species etc.), or possibly just simply a female officer. Either way, by the end they are the best of homies and finishing each other's one-liners. It comes in a few flavors, most are pretty good even at their worst. It doesn't even have to be human. Movie cops learn to love dogs and shit all the time-- its fucking heartwarming. Not only do the crusaders of these type of films smash bad guy faces but also somehow the divides between race, class or species, as they learn to trust each other within the 90 something minutes of a corny-ass action comedy. I think it's what some call a “bromance”. For many, the first “buddy cop” film to come to mind would be, of course, Lethal Weapon (1987), due to its star power and solid three and half good movie run. Depending on age, I have to also assume some would first jump to more recent popular mainstream titles like Rush Hour (1998) as the “gold standard” for this type of film. Personally, as for extreme law-folk in unlikely friendships, I’m partial to Tango and Cash (1989), for a variety of reasons ( I save that rant for later, but the cliff notes are Kurt Russell and Stallone in librarian glasses ). There have been a lot of great unlikely duos as It's a fun, easy formula, with just the right amount of grit, shootouts and feels.  Dolph Lundgren is underrated in the unlikely partner roles, despite giving us a stellar entry in Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) which paired him with Brandon Lee. It's a classic comic book-like action flick (and it's hard to top that duo), but like most things it can only get better with drug dealing extraterrestrials. That's is why I like 1990s sci-fi injected, buddy cop film- Dark Angel (AKA I Come in Peace)
Detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) doesn't play by the rules, or take orders from anybody. He is a by the gut cop, quick to kick a perp in the face and (as we hear a few times for some reason) a man who always keeps a promise. When his partner is killed in a stakeout/sting (possibly due to Caine being busy high kicking people), he, of course, is quick to take up his contractual revenge on the drug cartel responsible, with or without a badge. As these things go, this leads to a loving ass-chewing by his captain (Jim Haynie) and a possible forced vacation in the works. Unfortunately, instead of being suspended, the case attracts the attention of the FBI who, by some kind of inter-agency exchange program, stick the anything-goes Caine with a by-the-book “Special” Agent Smith (Brian Benben) to look into the case. The two waste no time in engaging in cliche, back and forth, armed with plenty of characteristic one-line quips. Unbeknownst to the both of them, the malicious drug-ring has run into a little trouble themselves, as a freshly arrived and freakishly large humanoid (Matthias Hues), with a Warlock (1989) inspired hair-doo, has been ransacking all their heroin pop-up stores on some kind of fucked-up interplanetary scavenger hunt. As Cain and Smith are just beginning their troubled road to bro-hood and quest to stop to Victor Manning’s (Sherman Howard) drug dealing “White Boys”, the hulking alien has already been out making quick work of the goons, using the dealer's heroine for some next level meth lab type shit. Apparently, on whatever doped up planet he's originally from, endorphin enriched brain juice is all the rage--and costly, so the entrepreneurial alien has been enhancing the process by forcing humans to slam heroin. This gets his victim’s happy juices to a maximum level, right before he punches a hole in their dome piece and harvests that shit with a cool Baraka straw thing. Sooner or later, between arguments about techniques and guidelines with Agent Smith, it becomes evident to Caine that there is something new on the streets, outside of his regular heroin slinging gangs with silly names, and he begins to look towards otherworldly explanations. Agent Smith is a little more skeptical, even after they get a hold of the aliens magical flying DVD-R, and shit gets really weird. Ultimately, justice is served, aliens take punches and cops become down-for-life best friends despite the fact that one wears suits and the other dresses like a blade runner.
I Come in Peace, AKA Dark Angel (Not to be confused with the 2000s TV show, or 1994 Full Moon film...or the that TV movie from 1996, etc. ), was directed by Craig R. Baxley. The work is based on a 1984 spec script by Jonathan Tydor (as Lethal Contact) and at least partially influenced by a failed project from 1986 (titled Face to Face) that both Baxley and Dolph Lundgren had previously worked on with Randy Feldman (and possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger). As a director, Baxley is also responsible for cornball classics like Action Jackson (1988) and some well-known television episodes. There is also a good chance he made an appearance on the set of one of your favorite bigger budget cult films doing one of his other various jobs. Lundgren takes the movie’s lead. He can deliver some great bad guys, but his range is surprisingly rounded, especially when compared to other action stars he famously played foil to. This flick is a good example as to why. Here, he plays the often utilized lovable, but rough around the edges, protagonist who makes his own rules. Pretty standard fare for the genre but still removed enough from the bloodthirsty juggernaut roles that really paid the bills around that time. Within five years of this film, he also portrayed the iconic Drago (Rocky IV 1985), the ruthless manborg GR13 (Universal Soldier 1992), The mutherfucking Punisher (The Punisher 1989), and He-Man (Masters of the Universe 1987). Say what you will about the films but in each role Lundgren is relatively different, and he is always at least putting forth an effort to “act” (or at least not just be himself). In this case, he also brings a level of cynicism and goofy charm that makes the part memorable. The character is written as extremely sparse even by the genre's standards, but he is able to fill the gaps with implied personality, all the while rocking some brown hair dye and contact lenses. The result is something of a cross between a Dirty Harry with a sense of humor and a less tortured Rick Deckard. It's not a super dramatic character, more comic book-like then anything, but of a different “comic” variety entirely then the Dolph that hangs out naked in sewers while mumbling angrily at God (like the title character of the underrated 80s Punisher film). I feel like this is him at a particular type of best, starring in his own vehicle and not just showing up as the unstoppable cop version of himself, like some similar (maybe more mentioned) stars. While not really topping any film duo lists, the pairing of Lundgren and Brian Benden is engaging and shows short spikes of legitimate chemistry. Benden does cocky narcissism expertly, in fact he had an entertaining (very) 90s tv show, Dream On (1990–1996) dedicated to his abilities (well that and the early experiment of throwing nudity into a sitcom setting). He's a fun actor, and a good pick for an initially annoying FBI agent. Mark Lowenthal shows up as an eccentrically over caffeinated Scientist named Bruce. I can't place him in any other films, but he is one of the highlights as the resident, over the top science expert. As if to match the stature of Lundgren, the towering Matthias Hues is cast as “Talec” the bad alien. He is full of ridiculous faces and it's a blast to watch him cause mayhem. Hues too is somewhat a legendary heal in action films, having popped up as “the big ass bad guy” in several martial arts films throughout an awesome, trashy career. His inclusion in the film leads to a well-matched and memorable final battle between Caine and Talec (one of two fights in a industrial plant, I think, because...its an action movie).
The fact that the alien is on some kind of evil intergalactic Hunter S. Thompson shit works outstandingly with the frequent cop cliches. The movie takes a lot from previous “buddy cop” action films, sometimes unabashedly, but handles them all adequately. The pulp influence is similar to Showdown in Little Tokyo except pulling it's theme and elements from science fiction films instead of Kung fu flicks. The alien's penchant to fuck up junkies and drug dealers feels like a lighter and less sweaty precursor to Predator 2 (1990)-- which would come later that year, along with the shared cops vs drug dealers vs aliens three-way thing they both got going.  Both of the alien visitors in the film look just like humans but are rocking intergalactic hobo poncho layering, bad hair and some snazzy (but near tongue in cheek) weaponry, all which makes me think of Critters (1986). For all we know, all this shit could be happening in some fun-loving but fucked up universe where alien threats range from furry ball things with teeth to the brain juice cartel. The human gangs are pretty fucking silly and mostly act as if they walked right out of other, unmade films. They fall in a strange but entertaining place between goofy Dick Tracy (1990) mobsters and the cartoonish syndicate from Darkman (1990). The main group of human cronies is a bunch of weaponized yuppies known as “The White Boys” without an outward explanation.  It's all good, silly bullshit.  I can appreciate the fact that most of the action movie elements are well-tread ground, which allows it to be a very simple film even with its almost high concept sci-fi brain-drug plot device. The streamlined interactions and relationships held by Lundgren’s character feel as though this could possibly be a sequel to another unmade Lundgren renegade cop movie- one that just doesn't have aliens in it ( fuck now I wish that was real). It's got a few different threads to its structure, but bounces between them well enough to keep it interesting, even if it does kind of just blow one away at some point. It's got some out-there ideas, but If you’ve watched more than a few films in your lifetime, most will be pretty predictable. The shallow aspects seem intentional and play into a self aware take on a noir theme. It's not a super important example of fine cinema, but it holds its entertaining value from start to finish. Before it could lose anyone, the film jumps back from amped-up action sequences to snarky comedic moments and of course some budding manly dude-love.
The film draws understandable comparisons to Dead Heat and Alien Nation (both 1988), all three being buddy cop films that use the horror/sci-fi angle. Dark Angel sticks out a little bit by not having the fantasy element be the initial schism between the two partners. The problem Jack Caine has with his partner and the alien threat are two involved but autonomous issues, making it an alternate take on the mix of genres comparatively. Instead of partnering the protagonist with the alien for conflict, the improbable duo must instead take on the sci-fi element after handling their own problems with each other.  Like Dead Heat though, the film is very loose with the logic and glides through would-be amazing breakthroughs in science without even wincing.
The neon touched, the crime-ridden world feels almost cyberpunk before the sci-fi elements even get going. It has something of a RoboCop (1987) meets Silk Stalkings (1991–1999) thing going on. Despite the 1990 release date, it is very much a part of the 80s in style and technical quality for the most part. The practical effects are restrained enough to be convincing (enough), and even get a little a brutal with the right angles. Action and stunts are all over-the-top in some of my favorite ways, and there is plenty of actual explosions-- like a bunch (fuck you CGI fire). Gunfights are the standard currency in the fictional streets of Houston, but the film gives Dolph a few moments to show off some of his kung fu moves. It's a good mix of the silly fisticuffs from the earlier 80s action stuff and the hyper-violence that began later. It tours the buffet with the regular go-tos featuring standoffs, car chases and the aforementioned tendency for things to explode. The alien hardware includes a magic beta disc that came off a little Phantasm (1979) at times and a bazooka that doesn't come with a manual. Both are brought to life using the minimal effects of the time. There is not much nudity, although, from what I understand from the internet, anything involving tubes can be porn now-- so watch out for that, I guess.
Like most good buddy comedies, Dark Angel doesn't involve much thinking, it's only concern is entertaining, and sometimes explosions. If it was a cereal it would be a bowl of Marshmallow Mateys without any of the stale knock-off Cheerio things. It's just the good stuff, kept extremely simple, packed with gunfights and even an extraterrestrial pusherman.  Lundgren is at the top of his game at this point in his career, and I can't help but feel like, while he is well known, he doesn't quite get the credit for all the aspects he can bring to a film. I don't think anything can easily usurp Lethal Weapon as “the” buddy comedy film, but Dark Angel has a lot to love and none of Mel Gibson's baggage. Besides, isn't Dolph Lundgren like a fucking rocket scientist off-screen? Admittedly, I don't really converse with either types of people a whole lot, but if I my life was a buddy cop film, I would hope I didn't get stuck with the crazy, angry bigot as a partner. That would be lame, you can do that kind of shit in real life.
1h 31min | 1990
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Writers: Jonathan Tydor, David Koepp (as Leonard Maas Jr.)

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