NOVEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : I COME IN PEACE (1990)
PLOT-CRUNCH: An intergalactic alien drug dealer (Hues) comes to earth with a peculiar MO on the fritz. The duder causes human beings to overdose on smack and then sucks the endorphins out of their heads with the intention of selling the fix on his home planet. Yup, you heard me...that’s the plot and I’m sober as I write this. With Dolph Lundgren (playing Jack), spastic Brian Benben (playing Laurence) and a space cop with bad hair on his intergalactic tail, our “peaceful” alien friend has his hands full. LET THE FIREWORKS BEGIN!
THE LOWDOWN: "I Come in Peace" was like a glass of sweet fruit punch for me. It numbed my brain and gave me a pleasurable freeze high for an hour and half. Sure, it tasted like "The Hidden", "The Terminator", "The Peacemaker" and "Predator 2" at times, but I have to hand it to this silly rabbit for giving the alien invader one hell of an original motive; he’s a drug dealer here to harvest his narcotics through us! I haven’t heard that one before! Props to whoever came up with that idea during what was most likely a drunken binge.
The flick also didn’t take itself too seriously, which allowed me to enjoy it as a guilty pleasure. Taking into account the alien’s reasons for visiting earth; his ironic and often repeated line “I come in peace” said it all when it came to this film’s intended tone. Now sure the buddy cop quips between rule-breaker Jack (Lundgren) and tightly-wound FBI Agent Smith (Benben) were a bit tired. And yes, the poor dialogue, the predictable plot twists and the obligatory “love subplot” that wasted screen time were nothing to drop my drawers over. But those elements were not why this cheap trick should be viewed in the first place. It was all about the sugar coating here!
If a fly by your pants pace, polished visuals, endless glorious explosions, average car chases, groovy kills, lots of shoot 'em up scenes and a couple of mano-a-mano fight sequences crank your dial, you’re in for fun times at the Donut shop. If that’s NOT enough to tweak your noggin, try nifty gadgets that go from a way kool flying CD weapon, to a long metal tube that buries itself in its victims’ chests, to a big-ass spike that rams into folks’ skulls. Sounds like a quick snack worth the gas money yet? NO????? Well, did I mention the alien’s incredibly powerful hand gun? Well, it goes beyond phallic symbol status to blow up all kinds of shite in one burst. WOW! You’ve got to respect that on so many levels. I know…I know…it can’t hit the fleeing Lundgren for some reason, but hey, what can you do...if he dies, the movie is over…so roll with it!
On the downside, the low IQ way in which the film tackled its subject matter did lessen the impact of its darker and more ambitious ideas. At times, the flick also went overboard in the cartoonish vibe with “barf” yuppie drug lords named “The White Boys” stinking up the scenery, kooky characters pushing the limits of my tolerance level (one played by Michael J Pollard…again) and “drama” handled in the most childish of manners. I felt that with a more grounded and mature execution like, let’s say, "The Terminator", the flick could’ve been more than just a simple Saturday night stroke job. Maybe it could’ve been a Sci-Fi/Horror classic! WHO KNOWS?
Having said all that, I won’t be the a-hole who bitchslaps the movie for what it wasn’t. I’ll pat it on the back for what it was. If you’re looking for a drawn-out exploration of human relationships, then get the hell out of here! You've got no business being on this ride! If it’s a violent blow 'em up cheese sandwich you’re craving, then you’re at the right Deli. Dig in and don’t get any mayo on your shirt, you messy party fiends!
GORE: It's body count time! We get throat slits by flying CDs galore, a spike rammed in a couple of heads, lots of bullet wounds, an impaling and even one exploding head.
ACTING: Dolph Lundgren (Jack) did fine as the instinctual cop, he was actually at his best here acting-wise. He still needed diction lessons though. Brian Benben (Laurence) played off Lundgren real well, but annoyed me at times with his twerp shtick. Matthias Hues (Bad Alien) was one scary mofo and emanated lots of menace. Betsy Brantley (Diane) does what she has to do as the requisite love interest.
T & A: We get a stripper showing off her implanted Betty Boops and some hot mechanic chick showing nice cleavage via her bra. Male lovers get maxed-up Lundgren shirtless.
DIRECTING: The direction was tight and flashy with bluish lighting, groovy CD POV shots (think “the ball” in "Phantasm"), slick angles, creative scene transitions and action scenes that went from awesome to average.
SOUNDTRACK: The score is a synthesizer deal that was engaging half the time and semi-tacky the other. We also get “Maggie” by XYZ and a rap tune.
BOTTOM LINE: "I Come in Peace" might've been more than a dumb ditz on her knees, if handled differently, but as it is, it was still a swift, violent and pleasant stroll down Lundgren lane. Big guns, big explosions, big evil alien, big pecks, big talk, big tits and big guys kicking the shit out of each other. You want a Diet Coke with that? I’ll pass…I think I’m full until the sequel. Where’s my “I Come in Peace 2”???? COME ON!!!! I BE
HUNGRY FOR MORE!
BULL'S EYE: This flick was hot in Houston, Texas.
Initially, Lundgren was approached for the role of the bad alien, but he wanted to play the cop instead. Matthias Hues took over the role and did all of his own stunts since he was too big to be doubled.
Craig R. Baxley also directed the fun Brian Bozworth biker flick “Stone Cold”.
NOVEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : I COME IN PEACE (1990)
Review by Michael Varrati
Sylvester Stallone once famously said that every actor wishes they were akin to someone like Daniel Day-Lewis, with a vast range and palette…but more often become known for one thing.
He furthermore said that there is nothing wrong with that situation.
After all, if you happen to be good at the one thing you’re known for, then it’s still money in the bank…and you’re still doing a job you love.
Stallone, of course, was making reference to his iconic roles as Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, both of which have been kind to him over the years (if not a little played out). Ironically, this article isn’t about Sly, but about his co-star from Rocky IV, the Swedish powerhouse known as Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher , Showdown in Little Tokyo).
Dolph, despite an impressive intellect and Master’s degree in chemical engineering, has often been called upon over the years to play the muscular lug. Of course, this suits him, because audiences love to see this man kick the asses of every last dude in town. That’s what we pay to see…and who can blame us? The guy is pretty much one muscle on top of another. In his heyday, Dolph stood head-to-head at the box office with some of the biggest names in the action genre, and continues to do very well in the direct-to-video market.
But, as noted, action is the genre that he is known for, and rarely have we seen him out of this element. Essentially, Lundgren is to action as Englund is to horror. It’s just hard to imagine them elsewhere.
That is why, in 1990, when Dolph appeared in a horror/sci-fi blend about an alien rampaging through a Texas city killing unsuspecting victims, there surely had to be a few eyebrows raised.
The film in question, I Come in Peace (alternatively titled Dark Angel) is something of a schizophrenic movie, as would befit such a strange pairing of actor and genre.
Here are the details:
Directed by Craig R. Baxley (Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Kingdom Hospital), the film concerns itself with a visitor from an other world, who creepily proclaims to his victims in a sinister voice, “I come in peace…” before piercing a hole in their chest and using a tube to suck something from their brain.
Naturally, his dialogue married to his actions make him one colossal liar.
Early in the film, our alien fibber lays waste to a cocaine sting gone wrong, killing cops and Mafioso alike with a spectacular flying bladed weapon (which quite distantly evoked images of the spheres from Phantasm), drawing the attention of the city’s authorities, and worse- the Federal government.
Enter Dolph, playing hard as nails Detective Jack Caine (surprise, surprise), who lost a partner in the cocaine sting, and is determined to bring the killer to justice. Though Caine is not destined to embark on his quest of blood, guts, and revenge alone…he is paired with a well-dressed, sarcastic FBI agent (played by Brian Benben, of Dream On fame), and together they will encounter a menace that is out of this world.
But what is the alien’s purpose here? What exactly is he taking from the brains of humanity?
…and what will our dynamic duo do when another alien arrives to hunt the first?
Of course, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out, but I’ll give you a hint – it’s all pretty over the top and definitively ridiculous.
The big issue with I Come in Peace is that it just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be as a motion picture. Depending on the scene, the film’s tone is vastly different than what may have come just moments before, creating kind of a choppy sense of narrative.
For example, when the alien appears, the film very much has an aura of horror…with an extreme sense of menace, dark lighting, and some bloody moments that, while not the goriest in horror history, are still nothing to sneeze at, I Come in Peace certainly has an established creepy atmosphere.
Yet, scenes sans the alien, especially ones that highlight the reluctant partners’ investigation into the murders play as extremely comedic, and feel more like 48 Hours than Friday the 13th.
…and of course, scenes where Dolph is alone to kick some butt all have the definitive stamp of a ’90s action flick, complete with ill-timed one-liners and explosions coming from things that don’t normally explode.
So is this a horror movie? Sure.
But it’s also a buddy-cop film and an action flick. So, if you are unsettled by movies that choppily jump genres, then perhaps this isn’t the movie for you, because the gears can shift often and without warning, giving I Come in Peace its own unique style.
Now, whether that style works or not, however, is totally reliant upon the viewer.
In the general sense, if you are a fan of the casual “devil may care” attitude that a lot of horror films of the ‘80s adopted, blending a little bit of silliness with scares, then I Come in Peace is certainly not the worst slice of schlock pie you can serve yourself.
Brian Benben steals the show as the uptight FBI agent who is assigned to keep Lundgren’s character in check, keeping a healthy level of sarcasm and a knowing glint in his eye that seems to suggest that yes, this movie is ridiculous, but ridiculous can be fun.
Lundgren himself gets in the spirit of things, but also plays the character as expected, considering the disaffected police officer is not a role that is entirely unfamiliar to the action star. That said, if you’ve ever wanted to see Ivan Drago kick an alien in the face, this is probably the only chance you’re ever going to get.
So with a cast that has tongues planted firmly in cheek, and a script that is this side of uproariously fun nonsense, I Come in Peace serves as a frantically confused, but highly entertaining film. Bearing the stamp of the decade that preceded it, this is a movie that is a lot of flash, little substance, and one of the better ways to kill a bowl of popcorn.
Unfortunately, the movie is currently unavailable on DVD in the region 1 format, but is readily available on VHS and in foreign markets. So, if you’re a brain sucking alien sub-genre enthusiast or a member of the Dolph Lundgren fan cult (count this reviewer among its ranks), this little flick is worth tracking down, especially if you are looking to add a little spectacle to your day.
…and after all, isn’t a good spectacle what horror is all about?
NOVEMBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : STREETWALKIN'
I’d like to think that when Melissa Leo won the Academy Award this year for her supporting work in “The Fighter,” she was thinking, “Gee, the only thing that could make 2011 sweeter would be the hasty DVD release of a 1984 exploitation film I did for Roger Corman when I was brand new to the business.” Melissa Leo, I have wonderful news for you.
Fresh out of an abusive home with little brother Tim (Randall Batinkoff, in his film debut), Cookie (Melissa Leo) is a frightened teen girl with nowhere to go. Offering her a new life is pimp Duke (Dale Midkiff, also making his debut), a vicious man who Cookie attaches herself to, taking to the streets as instructed, turning tricks for money. When Duke’s wrath kills a fellow prostitute, Cookie is ready to escape, hoping to land a new urban agent in Jason (Leon), leaving the rabid pimp in a hurry to find his former employee and kill her to set an example for the grim street community of crooks, junkies, johns, and hookers.
“Streetwalkin’” has all the earmarks of an exploitation classic, establishing a harsh world for a dewy high school dropout unaware of the cruelties of life, facing an abusive pimp and a sexual underworld of kinks and kooks. Though it tangles with unsavory (and wildly entertaining) elements, director/co-writer Joan Freeman (“Satisfaction”) is more interested in the frayed ends of survival, losing the folds of perversion to manufacture a straightforward tale of escape, though it’s interesting to see Cookie forever trapped in a cycle of mistreatment, hoping to ditch one pimp for another.
With a handful of police officers credited as advisors, “Streetwalkin’” investigates the prostitute experience, observing Cookie as she prowls the concrete jungle, populated with addicts (Greg Germann) and porn theaters, hoping to squirrel away enough money to stand on her own two feet, desperate to keep Tim on the right track of behavior. Freeman keeps the proceedings gritty, but her scope is limited by traditional Corman frugality, permitting few outdoor encounters, while padding the film with extended appearances from supporting characters (Antonio Fargas shows up as a rival pimp, Julie Newmar plays a fellow street walker), prostitute vignettes, and overlong scenes of Duke feverishly pounding on people and trashing rooms.
There’s actually very little plot here to sustain 80 minutes of screentime, with much of “Streetwalkin’” feeling slack and disinterested, despite a few ambitious moments of psychological study that reveal unrealized depth to the material. Freeman seems to be fighting to make a statement, while the Corman DNA of the feature assumes command, displaying sadistic behavior and rough encounters.
Visual: The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation is more admirable than exceptional. Street life retains satisfactory colors and depth, though it’s a soft image, not always terrific with textures. Print damage is consistent throughout the viewing experience, along with some flicker issues. Skintones look relatively natural, while black levels lose their support during some of the darker events. Considering the obscurity of the picture, it’s a fine DVD, doing the best it can with iffy elements and limited interest.
Audio: The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound mix is a tinny track, offering pinched dialogue exchanges and shrill soundtrack cuts. There are also pronounced hiss and pops throughout the listening experience. The action is frontal and direct, but there’s little to no weight or dimension. It’s not an impressive DVD event, but, to be fair (or imaginative), the strangled audio presentation likely captures the true theatrical experience of the picture.
Subtitles: There are no subtitles