Lundgren. Aliens. A small FBI man. Drugs.
In what must have had the action film screenwriters guild in an apoplectic rage (if said guild existed), Dolph Lundgren’s maverick cop in Dark Angel isn’t called John. He’s not far off though – his name is Jack Caine. He is precisely what you would expect, a maverick cop who doesn’t play very well with others and has a blatant disregard for the rules.
After we see the perils of changing a CD in your car stereo in the opening sequence, we’re introduced to themes including revenge, the battle against drugs (both on Earth and beyond), weird and wonderful alien weapons, and a grim backdrop that suits the equally grim subject matter. Luckily this is balanced by some genuinely funny moments throughout.
It’s interesting because it’s almost like two different films meshed together, for the first 45 minutes at least. After that the sci-fi alien hunt plot meets up with the buddy cop police procedural with enjoyably silly results. There are two aliens running around the streets, one saying “I come in peace” (an alternate title for the film, appropriately enough), pumping people full of heroin before taking samples from his victims and gratuitously bumping them off. The remaining alien is on the other’s trail, trying to stop the blonde bad guy from taking the endorphins extracted from the human victims back to their home planet. Needless to say, he has a close encounter with Dolph Lundgren. Soon the drug lord parallels between the aliens and the domestic issues Caine has with local drug lords The White Boys become clear. If drugs are bad (mmkay), then having intergalactic drug dealers rocking up on Earth is clearly a bad thing.
Buddying up with Lundgren’s Caine is Brian Benben as Special Agent Smith. They couldn’t have chosen a more diminutive partner for Lundgren without resorting to borderline offensive “little person” casting. The height difference between the two is immense. This is further emphasised by their initial disagreement over procedure, your typical buddy cop yin/yang situation.
It will never be claimed that Lundgren is a great actor, although as the years have gone by he has demonstrated that he can put out a solid performance if given the right material. Such is the case with Dark Angel. True, he doesn’t have much to do in terms of range, but his knowing raised eyebrows and glances of mild concern are comedy gold. It would be a concern if he ever showed up in a serious drama or something along those lines, but give him roles like Jack Caine and he’s well in his element.
To approach Dark Angel as anything other than a cheesy action movie is the wrong way to do it. You’ll get nothing out of it if you go in expecting Shakespeare. But if you can get along with films that are inherently silly with their fair share of violent moments, then you’re already halfway there. Plus, scientists should never drink coffee or test products on themselves. It makes them kinda jumpy.