Dark Angel (I Come In Peace) (1990)
Release Date: September 28th, 1990 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Craig R. Baxley Actors: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues, Jay Bilas, Jim Haynie
t’s Christmastime when an unknown object crashes in a fiery ball of flame in the middle of a tree display, from which a towering, glowing-eyed, white-haired humanoid emerges, proclaiming, “I come in peace” (a memorable phrase that would become the film’s reissue title). Meanwhile, two men infiltrate a Houston federal warehouse to steal heroin from the evidence room before setting off a diversion bomb. Not too far away, Detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is listening in on a wire operation with his partner Ray Turner (Alex Morris), attempting to catch corrupt official Victor Manning (Sherman Howard) purchasing the narcotics at an empty nightclub. But when a liquor store holdup distracts Caine, Turner is killed – and the alien man arrives to slaughter Manning’s remaining collection of bodyguards.
After investigating the crime scene, Caine discovers a spinning, razor-edged disk embedded in a speaker, pointing to the possibility that the murderer and his weapon might not be entirely human. He visits Manning’s partner Warren (Sam Anderson), a powerful businessman notoriously overseeing local dope distribution, and is pressured into conducting a drop that night. An obvious drug rivalry between reigning gangs is in play, but it’s the strangely inhuman visitor that has been stealing the heroin, injecting it into victims to chemically steal their euphoric endorphins.
Caine, himself generically characterized by impulsiveness and a distaste for playing by the rules, is furnished with the stereotypical howling chieftain, Captain Malone (Jim Haynie); the presumptuous, jurisdictionally arrogant FBI agent, Switzer (David Ackroyd); and the rookie replacement partner, Special Agent Larry Smith (Brian Benben), who just happens to be ambitious, overconfident, straight-laced, and grossly underprepared for the mystery at hand. He’s also given a girlfriend, coroner Diane Pallone (Betsy Brantley), who disapproves of his dedication to the job and his lack of regular communication. The film is further inundated with peculiar supporting players, including Michael J. Pollard as Boner, a connected lowlife, Mark Lowenthal as a jittery, overanxious scientist, and an unnecessary amount of victims, all of which die extremely repetitively.
Like “The Terminator,” more than one alien visitor arrives in the city, with the sympathetic warrior not nearly as formidable as the criminal one. Grand explosions, fiery projectiles, massive firepower, and destructive car chases wreak havoc on the city and its inhabitants, while Lundgren favors swift roundhouse kicks for his lesser-matched adversaries. Despite the hokey nature of the plot, the lead characters are surprisingly serious and aren’t noticeably deficient in offering up their lines – a common problem for B-movie actioners (though the budget is deceptively impressive). Caine and Smith are also an uncommonly entertaining duo, not only contrasting each other with physical appearances (Lundgren is tall and muscular, Benben is short and thin) but also with effective repartee and eventual camaraderie. Though not a masterpiece of the genre, “Dark Angel” is a thoroughly entertaining example of action-packed ‘90s science-fiction, demonstrating the fixation with evil alien invaders and the sinewy warriors tasked with defeating them.
– Mike Massie