Blu-ray Review: Dark Angel (a.k.a. I Come in Peace)
If you were a fan of the 1990 Dolph Lundgren vehicle I Come In Peace, you may have been concerned that the new Shout! Factory Blu-ray uses the generic sounding title Dark Angel (not to mention the name of the short-lived Jessica Alba TV series). Well, don’t worry, the movie’s actual opening titles still say I Come In Peace, just like the real title is Furious 6 even though all the commercials called it Fast and Furious 6. The font of those opening titles couldn’t be any more ‘90s either, although the Jan Hammer score is sure to remind you that 1990 is still the ‘80s for all intents and purposes.
I Come In Peace is about an alien (Matthias Hues) who shoots razor sharp compact discs while chanting “I come in peace” in a deadly monotone. See, it’s ironic because he actually doesn’t come in peace at all! Det. Jack Caine (Lundgren) stumbles onto this creature when it kills all the mobsters in a sting operation that already killed his partner before the alien even got there. Caine is assigned a new partner, by-the-books FBI agent Smith (Brian Benben), who doesn’t believe all Caine’s talk about aliens… at first.
There are so many wonderful things about I Come in Peace. Let’s start with the juxtaposition of Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben. We’ve seen a lot of mismatched buddy cops before. This movie isn’t going to bring anything new to the genre, but let’s at least give audiences the most striking possible two-shot we can. If you’re not familiar with the work of Brian Benben from TV’s “Dream On,” he is noticeably smaller than Lundgren, and looks so sniveling in that by the books suit.
This movie comes from a time when even low budget movies had lots of practical action. You’d never see this today. They’d green screen everything. The battles between Caine and the alien, or the alien and a good alien hunting him down, break a lot of stuff. Glass disintegrates in the crossfire, buildings explode as they pass through and cars shatter as they are shot up and crashed. Frankly, today’s big budget movies don’t feature this much real action. The visual effects of the flying discs work really well, incorporating camera moves with foreground damage.
I’d forgotten that Lundgren did some martial arts. I should have remembered his moves in Showdown in Little Tokyo but I was surprised when I saw him kicking in I Come In Peace. This movie has everything: car chases, special effects for alien technology, martial arts and a good old gratuitous strip club scene.
I Come in Peace makes the most out of its high concept premise. I mean, no A-lister is going to make a movie about a cop hunting an alien, and it’s basically a knock-off of The Terminator and Predator. Yet the film gives its premise enough respect to take it seriously; as seriously as ‘80s action movies took anything. There’s one-liners and clichés but Jack Caine really means it. Agent Smith certainly does. Hues just keeps coming at them so fast that no matter how many different ways they blow him up, the threat is real.
Caine’s drug kingpin keeps making trouble for him while he’s trying to fight the alien too, so the film sets this attack in a world where other police investigations don’t just stop because there’s an alien sucking the brains out of humans. The FBI subplot has some complications and the actual reason the alien is sucking out brains is pretty interesting. I don’t want to spoil it because I’m actually recommending this movie, but they thought of some clever mythology, adding to the fun. The script was written by David Koepp under a pseudonym.
This Blu-ray is obviously the clearest I’ve ever seen I Come in Peace, having only seen it on VHS back in the ‘90s. It is a respectable transfer giving us a lot of clarity to see the gritty details all over the streets of Houston and the flying debris left in the wake of Dolph and the aliens. Towards the end of the film, digital noise becomes a bigger problem as it’s all set at night. It’s film look throughout, which is also a welcome sight for a cop vs. alien movie to be shot with the same level of materials as the studio blockbusters of the day.
The sole bonus feature is a look back at the film featuring new interviews with director Craig Baxley, Lundgren and Benben. Baxley is actually rather informative about how the action looks so big. He called in some favors and it just shows that A-list technicians can bring their A-game to B-movies. Benben speaks very fondly about the project and Lundgren is a charismatic charmer. The Blu-ray does also include the trailer and a still gallery, which includes many interesting alternate posters.
I’d always rooted for Lundgren to become a leading action star. Rocky IV sort of typecast him as villains, though he was great in Universal Soldier. I’ve still never seen Red Scorpion to this day, but I liked Lundgren as He-Man and he’s the reason I got into The Punisher. He’s just now getting his due as The Expendables gave him a comeback vehicle and straight-to-video filmmakers are finally starting to take those movies seriously. I Come in Peace is probably as good as it gets for theatrical leading man Dolph, and I highly recommend it.