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Houston cop Jack Caine is a not-by-the books police officer investigating the death of several people, including his partner, by a gang called the "White Boys." All the victims seemed to have died of drug overdoses, but Jack thinks that there is something more sinister afoot. His investigation reveals a plot by aliens who use the bodies to extract a chemical that is sold to addicts on their home planet.
For more about Dark Angel and the Dark Angel Blu-ray release, see Dark Angel Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Jim Haynie, Michael J. Pollard, Jesse Vint, Al Leong
Director: Craig R. Baxley
» See full cast & crew
Dark Angel Blu-ray Review
Didn't big hair end with the eighties?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 26, 2013
There's a lot of talk about the "global drug epidemic", but Dark Angel takes that idea to extremes by positing a universal drug epidemic. Dark Angel was originally released stateside under the title I Come in Peace, the intentionally ironic statement that is croaked by an incredibly vicious alien who shows up on our troubled little planet and who rather strangely steals a huge supply of heroin that has been spirited out of a police evidence locker. This giant mutant with glassy white eyes and hair that would be the envy of any eighties' rock god then goes on a seemingly inexplicable foray where he seemingly randomly attacks people with a strange device that first injects something into their hearts and then extracts something from their craniums. Meanwhile, rule breaking cop Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) has stumbled into the bloody aftermath of the alien's first attack site—where he (it?) purloined the stash of heroin—to find his partner dead. The two had been arranging a big sting operation that was intended to bring down Victor Manning (Sherman Howard), the local drug kingpin. Instead, Manning had figured out that Jack's partner was an undercover cop and had dispatched him while Jack was busy stopping a convenience store robbery which had inconveniently broken out next door to where the drug drop was taking place. But after Manning left the premises, the behemoth alien showed up and put the kibosh on Manning's henchmen. All of them have seriously severed necks, and Jack and nerdy FBI agent Smith (Brian Benben), who has been foisted on him as a putative partner, can't figure out what could have caused such injuries. They find a weird vibrating disc—kind of like a CD with Parkinson's Disease—wedged into a subwoofer in the club where all the mayhem has taken place. Jack starts to think that maybe they're not dealing with just your everyday ordinary drug thief.
For its first forty five minutes or so, Dark Angel is a rather bracingly original piece, despite having a number of elements that seem teleported in from other features, whether they be science fiction movies or police procedurals. Writers Jonathan Tydor and the pseudonymous Leonard Maas, Jr. (in reality blockbuster penman David Koepp early in his career, years before Mission: Impossible, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Spider-Man) give the viewer just enough information not to be too confused without totally spilling the beans with what's going on.
While we've seen an initial alien (Matthias Hues) show up, steal the heroin, and start doing something to a bunch of unsuspecting humans, and then a second alien (Jay Bilas) appear, evidently trying to kill the first alien (but of course always missing), we're not quite sure what exactly is up. The film also exploits the kind of Odd Couple dynamic between Jack and Smith, with Smith's by the book uptightness rubbing Jack the wrong way— repeatedly. Director Craig R. Baxley, who comes from a family of stunt performers, stages several outstanding set pieces in the opening scenes, including some nice martial arts moves for Lundgren and a nicely done car chase at one point.
But rather strangely, just when Dark Angel seems about to tip totally into gonzo territory, at about the same time a speed swallowing scientist does a back flip on a table and starts to explain the technology behind the alien disc which has created so much bloody havoc, the film becomes rather surprisingly rote, if only slightly less enjoyable. Without spoiling too many of the plot mechanics the film lines up like so many dominoes, the local drug cartel thinks the cops are behind the heroin heist, while the cops think Jack is patently crazy for thinking there are aliens involved. And the real reason behind the alien involvement does involve "drugs" of a certain kind, but not necessarily heroin. Ultimately some Men in Black get involved, forcing straight arrow Smith to decide whether he's a follower or a rule breaker like Jack (three guesses how that turns out). It's all kind of silly in the long run, but it's handled with a self-deprecating air that makes most of what transpires relatively entertaining.
Lundgren is unexpectedly charming in the lead role, kind of half winking through the escapade, though he's saddled with at least one really horrible pseudo-Schwarzenegger "zinger" that was obviously culled from the evil alien's admittedly pretty fun insistence that he comes in "peace". Lundgren moves through the action sequences with ease (though the featurette reveals he clobbered one stunt guy by accident and also unintentionally roughed up costar Benben on one occasion). Benben himself comes off as a sort of low rent Rob Morrow from Northern Exposure, plying a kind of natty neurotic quality that's appropriately annoying. Love interest Betsy Brantley, as a coroner no less, has virtually nothing to work with and tries her best, but is largely window decoration.
There are a couple of nice little cameos that provide Dark Angel with momentary extra color. Michael J. Pollard, who was never really able to capitalize on his innately weird qualities despite receiving an Academy Award nomination for Bonnie and Clyde, shows up briefly as an informant that Jack threatens with a particularly delicately aimed gun. Familiar character Sam Anderson has a couple of nice scenes as Manning's partner in the drug trade, running a group of proto-yuppie henchmen nicknamed the White Boys.
Dark Angel Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dark Angel is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is generally a nice looking transfer from Shout!, but it has a couple of small anomalies which may bother some videophiles. While there is absolutely a fine layer of rolling grain throughout this presentation, I was just a little surprised by how minimal it seemed to be at times, especially since so much of this film exploits low light sequences. This is not meant to imply any DNR was applied, since grain is definitely in evidence, but serves only as an observation of something that piqued my curiosity. More problematic are a couple of just flat out soft moments that suddenly crop up, sometimes in the middle of otherwise quite sharp looking sequences, perhaps signs that an older master was utilized. One of these can be seen in the third screenshot (with Lundgren and Betsy Brantley). Aside from these admittedly fairly minor distractions, the rest of this presentation looks very good, with nicely saturated color and good contrast, something which helps this film's tendency toward rather dark or dimly lit scenes. Fine detail is good in close-ups. The BD-50 provides more than enough room for this feature and the minimal special features, and no compression artifacts were in evidence. While this may not be reference quality, it is certainly a major step up from the previously available MOD DVD.
Dark Angel Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dark Angel was released theatrically in Ultra Stereo, and this Blu-ray offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 versions of the soundtrack. The 5.1 mix definitely has distinctive channel separation and good surround activity in some of the most hyperkinetic action sequences, but it tends to focus mostly on the front channels. The sound seems fairly widely splayed in the 5.1 mix, with some at times slightly overpowering foley effects and less than pleasing amplitude in the dialogue. Things are much more cohesive in the 2.0 mix, which seems to prioritize dialogue a bit better. Jazz-rock guru Jan Hammer's score sounds great in both versions. Minimal midrange distortion pops up now and again but is not a major distraction.
Dark Angel Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dark Angel Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dark Angel is just goofy as all get out, at least when it doesn't devolve into Schwarzenegger-lite theatrics. The first half of this film is really artfully structured, providing just enough information to captivate the audience's interest without giving away too many revealing plot details. Unfortunately, the second half of the film tends to lose steam as things get into more of a predictable rut. Lundgren is a surprisingly affable star, incredibly agile in the action sequences and at least decently believable in the emoting department. This Blu-ray features generally very good video and audio and comes with one really worthwhile supplement. Recommended.
Dark Angel Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dark Angel Blu-ray - April 12, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has confirmed that it will release on Blu-ray Craig R. Baxley's Dark Angel a.k.a. I Come in Peace (1990), starring Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, and Betsy Brantley. The ...
Dark Angel Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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