Dark Angel (1990) — Alien harvests us for his planet’s drug habit

“I come in peace.”

Justin’s rating: Why can’t we ever get a tagline that says, “This fall… Dolph plays golf!”

Justin’s review: At first glance, 1990’s Dark Angel seems like it’s a play-it-safe, by-the-numbers buddy cop movie where personalities collide while this newly forged partnership navigates the twisty-turny path of a drug case. And if that’s all this movie was, it actually wouldn’t be that bad thanks to engaging performances and an incredible synth score by Miami Vice’s Jan Hammer. Honestly, that’s all I *thought* it was when this was recommended to me.

So you can imagine my surprise when giant aliens with killer tech show up in the middle of this already weird case and start blowing up the town. The collision of these two disparate genres doesn’t always flow well into each other, but it is both surprising and entertaining.

In fact, I was kicking myself for never knowing Dark Angel existed, that’s how fun this whole movie was. It’s not deep, it’s not even always coherent, but boy does it know how to keep your attention from start to finish.

Dolph Lundgren is Jack Caine, a detective who’s obsessed with bringing down a yuppie gang of drug dealers known as the White Boys. This is easily the most likable and relaxed I’ve ever seen Lundgren, playing the role as a bad boy with good intentions. He gets paired up with an uptight FBI agent, a guy half his size called Larry Smith (Brian Benben) who is all mouth and overconfidence. They butt heads, with each of them getting their licks in, but both bring their skills to solving this case.

And considering that this case involves a gigantic platinum blonde alien with white eyes, a one-phrase vocabulary (“I come in peace!”) and a propensity for overdosing humans so that he can suck out their happy juice, that’s pretty important. The alien portion does seem jammed in here and there, abruptly showing up so that the alien cop and alien drug dealer can fire machine pistols and killer discs all willy-nilly.

But if there’s one thing we’re assured, it’s that any time an alien appears, something’s going to get blown up well and good. Dark Angel loves its explosions, often shoving its actors into the same location for that extra visceral touch.

It turns out that the stakes are a lot higher than a drug bust or putting down an unstoppable giant from outer space. If the bad alien — Talec, played by Matthias Hues — brings his goods back to his planet, it’s implied that it’ll trigger a whole wave of alien incursions looking for our brain juice. So Caine and Smith really, really need to stop this guy, even if it means blowing up half the city in the process.

I just had a fantastic time with Dark Angel thanks to its humor, willingness to embrace ludicrous plot elements, and generally creative approach. It felt like the pinnacle of 1980s cop and alien movies in many ways — and it made me genuinely like Dolph Lungren, which isn’t something I’ve really said before now.

Didja notice?

  • CD players in cars is how you knew you had made it to the big leagues
  • Loving this synth main theme from Jan Hammer
  • That’s an amazing roundhouse kick
  • That disc weapon reminds me of the Predator 2’s disc
  • Nice transition between the first forehead stabbing and the pool cue breaking the rack
  • Random bar destruction by an angry CD
  • And now for your funky rap break…
  • This movie does not skimp on explosions
  • The running on top of the cars scene is amazingly cool
  • Don’t mistreat a guy named Boner or you could get written up
  • Creative scene transitions
  • Random scream by scientist
  • I’ll admit, I laughed when he deliberately set off all the car alarms
  • This alien race has a self-destruct mechanism when they die?
  • The FBI agent really loves that alien pistol

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