Today’s flick is a cult classic about a heroin-dealing killer from outer space: Dark Angel, aka I Come In Peace.
Dark Angel has two credited writers: David Koepp (Snake Eyes, Carlito’s Way, Jurassic Park, Secret Window), who overhauled the screenplay via rewrites, and Jonathan Tydor (Ice Soldiers), who provided the initial speculative script.
The director for the film was Craig Baxley, who also helmed the action flick Action Jackson, and did extensive stunt work on movies like Predator and The Warriors.
The cinematographer on Dark Angel was Mark Irwin, who shot the films Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, Class of 1999, The Fly, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Steel, Scream, Kingpin, and Vampire In Brooklyn.
The music for Dark Angel was provided by Jan Hammer, who scored the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, the Hulk Hogan flick The Secret Agent Club, Beastmaster III, and, most memorably, the television show Miami Vice.
The team of producers on the flick included Mark Damon (It’s Alive (2008), Mac and Me), Rafael Eisenman (Teen Witch), Ron Fury (Howling II), David Saunders (Baby Geniuses, Hellraiser), Jon Turtle (The Grey, Cyborg 2), and Moshe Diamant (It’s Alive (2008), Simon Sez, Double Team, Timecop).
The makeup effects were provided by a team that included Gabe Bartalos (Dolls, From Beyond, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Evan Brainard (Space Truckers, Mortal Kombat, Brainscan), Tony Gardner (Darkman), Loren Gitthens (Brainscan), Kevin Hudson (DeepStar Six), Rick Lalonde (976-EVIL, Son Of The Mask, The People Under The Stairs), Roger McCoin (Shocker, Garbage Pail Kids Movie), Greg Polutonovich (Baby Geniuses), and A.J. Workman (Shocker, Arena, Communion, Friday the 13th Part VII).
The special effects work for Dark Angel was done by Jay Bartus (Action Jackson, Die Hard), Greg Curtis (Catwoman, North, Jaws 3-D), James McCormick (The Faculty), James Mize (RoboCop 2), Peter Olexiewicz (The Cell, Batman & Robin), Scott Prescott (Friday the 13th Part VII), Jor Van Kline (Demon Island, Waterworld), and Bruno Van Zeebroeck (Double Team, Class of 1999, Xanadu, Jaws 3-D).
The cast of Dark Angel includes Dolph Lundgren (Fat Slags, Masters of the Universe, Rocky IV, Johnny Mnemonic, The Punisher), Brian Benben (Dream On, Private Practice), Betsy Brantley (Deep Impact, Shock Treatment), Matthias Hues (Kickboxer 2), and Jim Haynie (Sleepwalkers).
Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is a Houston vice cop who’s forgotten the rule book. His self-appointed mission is to stop the drugs trade and the number one supplier Victor Manning. Whilst involved in an undercover operation to entrap Victor Manning, his partner gets killed, and a sinister newcomer enters the scene… Along with F.B.I. agent Lawrence Smith, the two investigate a spate of mysterious deaths; normal non-junkies dying of massive heroin overdoses and bearing the same horrific puncture marks on the forehead. This, coupled with Caine’s own evidence, indicates an alien force is present on the streets of Houston, killing and gathering stocks of a rare drug found only in the brain… Caine is used to fighting the toughest of criminals, but up to now they’ve all been human…
This movie is primarily known by two different titles: Dark Angel, which was the initial release title internationally, and I Come In Peace, which was used in the United States. However, the original title for the screenplay was Lethal Contact, which stuck with it during the 6 years before it got produced.
Dark Angel bears some interesting similarities to the plot of Predator 2, at least in broad strokes. Basically, they both star a hardened urban cop doing what is essentially standard police work, but with the twist of having to deal with an alien culprit behind it all.
David Koepp used a pseudonym for his writing credit on Dark Angel, and is listed in the credits as Leonard Maas, Jr..
The budget for the film was somewhere in the ballpark between $5-7 million, and grossed just under $4.4 million in its lifetime theatrical release. This made it a commercial loss, though it has gained some cult acclaim in recent years that has justified a blu-ray release. However, at the time, critics and audiences weren’t particularly thrilled with what many saw as nothing more than a Terminator ripoff. Currently, it holds a 6.0 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 13% from critics and 45% from audiences.
Matthias Hues, who plays the primary antagonist, is either the weakest or the strongest aspect of the movie, depending on how you look at it. He certainly isn’t a good actor, but he is undoubtedly physically intimidating. He mechanically spits out his handful of lines just like you would imagine a murderous alien would, which is all that was really asked of him. His weapons are also totally over the top, particularly his killer Frisbee/CD, which gets a surprising amount of time on screen given how ridiculous it is.
Dolph Lundgren is once again in top form in Dark Angel, which was just after The Punisher and before Showdown in Little Tokyo. Personally, I think Dark Angel is as good as Lundgren ever got as a lead, given he sunk into direct-to-video fodder before the 1990s was over with. He still has some of the comedic flair that came out in The Punisher, and is clearly more comfortable than he was in Masters of the Universe. Luckily, he doesn’t attempt a Texas accent, because there’s no telling how that might have turned out.
The thing that stands out most about Dark Angel is the weird, weird plot. The idea of combining a drug-based gritty cop movie with a science fiction story is really damn bizarre. For what it is worth, it comes off better than I thought it would, and creates an interesting sort of tone that the field of Terminator knockoffs (like Abraxas) totally miss. It is dark and gritty, but still has moments of being humorous in a way that only a b-movie can pull off. The result is a movie that is fun to go back and watch now, even if it didn’t work for people at the time.
Personally, I recommend this flick to any action or sci-fi movie fans as a deep cut from the late 1980s. It deserves more eyes on it, and I think it is starting to get the love it merits now. If you want to hear more about Dark Angel, check out the podcast episodes on it from We Hate Movies and the Bad Movie Fiends.