The early ‘90s was an utterly fascinating time in the world of action cinema, as the old style of puns, over-the-top action set pieces and personally tailored star vehicles was replaced with a more filmmaker friendly model, as sleeker shooting styles, hand-to-hand martial arts and stylistically overbearance emerged. With the influx of foreign directors and an audience that became enamored with quieter and independent fare, the loud, genrebending action film waned, giving way to filmmakers like John Woo, Jan de Bont and Renny Harlin to take the reigns from previous genre dominators like John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven and Richard Donner. However in this time, some truly enjoyable action camp classics went over the head of the general public as the older generation began to adapt, at various speeds of career progression. Among these films resides the buddy cop sci-fi horror procedural, Dark Angel.
Dark Angel, also entitled I Come in Peace, acts as a conceptual companion piece to films like Predator (and even moreso it’s Danny Glover-starring sequel) and Alien Nation, but fashioned with an ‘80s sense of rugged machismo and hard-hitting practical effects works, courtesy of Action Jackson director Craig R. Baxley. Simultaneously conventional and unconventional, the film’s lukewarm reaction from an audience that had begun to embrace a new era of action caused the film to become lost in time. Luckily, fans of one-liners and big explosions with a sci-fi twinge can rejoice, as SHOUT! Factory delivers Dark Angel on a brand new blu-ray set.
On a strictly traditional review standards, Dark Angel is not Oscar material, with cheesy dialogue and bizarre subplots that are ultimately inconsequential spread throughout the film. The action is dynamite but rarely serve a narrative purpose and mainly serve as runtime filler, albeit impressive at that. And of course, Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben aren’t here to deliver emotional performances, but rather deliver a comedy enhanced cop team-up that the film heavily relies on. If anything, the stunt work and production design is impressive for this particular project in a traditional sense, but the story is simply to silly and ridiculous to be taken seriously.
But in the way of pure entertainment value, Dark Angel takes it’s ridiculous imagination and runs with it at full speed. Blending elements of every popular genre-esque film at the time, Dark Angel feels like a genre hybrid by the way of Commando, with the witty rapport between Lundgren and Benben easing you through a story of intergalactic cops and drug dealers. There’s some bloody goodness, high velocity chase and explosion sequences and some fight scenes that truly give you a sense of the scope director Baxley was aiming for. For a project with a purportedly small budget, the action comes frequent and intense, and the levity in between that makes the film feel all the more fun.
A film like this could have easily been a misbegotten blunder had the leads been less energetic, with Lundgren showing off more natural charisma and effort towards being a likable lead over most action stars of the time and Brian Benben effortlessly letting a fast-talking, neurotic busybody attitude become likeable in the face of the colossal extraterrestrial menace. The chemistry between the two feels tangible, although not as much as the buddy cop genre in it’s heydey. Overall, however, the performances work best with the patient eye of Baxley’s camera, especially when the action hits thunderously.
For a film that’s more or less been unavailable in a decent quality release previously to this set, SHOUT!’s transfer does the film justice as best as it can. The film is riddled with grain, but the edges are refined and the colors are especially emphasized. There is never an overt sign of DNR softening, but the heavy grain may turn off some high definition enthusiasts. Still, the film looks the best that it can for the material available.
Once again, SHOUT! lives to its reputation for the highest quality audio transfer, courtesy of a new DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track. The music and dialogue are separated cleanly and there is not a trace of hiss to be found. Fans of audacious action movie soundtracks will be more than satisfied with SHOUT!’s work here.
The extras, albeit scant, are worthwhile. A featurette featuring Interviews with Craig R. Baxley, Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben deliver hysterical and gripping anecdotes about the film, including stunts gone wrong, the budgetary issues and the use of top-tier athletes for the villains. Otherwise, the film only comes with a theatrical trailer and a still gallery.
If you like campy sci-fi action films or have a fascination with era-unbound action movies, then Dark Angel is a must buy Blu-ray. If your tastes are more traditional and you prefer serious fare, then stay far away. Dark Angel is all about preference, and if you’re willing to drop your guard, Dark Angel is a sucker punch you can embrace with a mischievous grin.
– By Jay Plainsafe