Dark Angel (1990)
By: Devon B. on December 25, 2013 | Comments
Shout Factory | Region A | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues, Jay Bilas
Screenplay: Jonathan Tydor, Leonard Maas Jr.
Country: USA
I saw Dark Angel (AKA I Come in Peace) when it first came out and I'll confess I wasn't enthralled by it, but lately I've assumed that was because I hadn't fully developed my taste for awesome back then. For years I've wanted to revisit the movie, but I held off on picking up a DVD because I was confident this minor cult classic would get a Blu-ray release eventually. When it did I ordered it straight away, and as soon as I got the disc I popped it in only to quickly discover I would not be watching the movie that day. For Dark Angel is an Xmas movie, and I knew I would have to save it until December, which was several months away. I'd waited more than a decade, what was a few months more? This Yuletide revelation also made clear the fact that the debate over whether the film should be known as I Come in Peace or Dark Angel was irrelevant, as the movie obviously should be referred to as Dolphy's Xmas Spectacular.

The film opens with a man putting a CD into his car's player (it plays "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", my first clue this was an Xmas movie). The player spits the CD back out in a little something we cineastes like to refer to as foreshadowing. The driver loses concentration and crashes in an Xmas tree lot (clue number 2). Then he exasperatedly exclaims, "Great. God dammit! Merry fuckin' Christmas" (which pretty much clinched it). While stuck in the tree lot, as is always the way, a homicidal alien turns up, says one of the movie's titles, and then begins killing lots of people.

Another thing I realised right away when starting the film was that it's a Craig R. Baxley movie, so it should actually be called Craig and Dolphy's Xmas Spectacular. Baxley's the genius behind such films as Stone Cold and Action Jackson, so I immediately expected Craig and Dolphy's Xmas Spectacular would be way greater than I thought it was in the early 90s. Baxley is not known for his subtlety, and he has a knack for upping the ante, so just having a tall, alien isn't enough of a challenge for his hero. The viewer is introduced to Dolph, once again rockin' the brunette look, as he's listening in on an undercover police operation – apparently the only back up for the guy undercover. He's a well-known army of one, so under normal circumstances that setup would've probably been fine, but Dolph gets distracted when he has to break up an armed robbery. Things go badly, but then the aforementioned alien crashes the party and dispatches everyone with what appears to be a CD with some hypnosis wheel squiggles on it (that's the payoff of the foreshadowing I mentioned before). Now Dolph has to keep the pressure on the criminals he was after and track the deadly alien. Just when things seem like they couldn't get any more complex, Dolph gets foisted with a new comic relief partner, Brian Benben. As usual, the movie's at its funniest when it's trying to be serious, despite Benben's efforts. I don't mind Benben, but he's not given a lot to work with here so it's no wonder he gets on Dolph's nerves. Good thing it's Xmas time, or Dolph would probably be low on cheer.

One thing that must've perked him up a bit is that he gets to briefly hang out with Al Leong. That guy rules! As outlined in my review of Die Hard, Leong's presence automatically qualifies any film as an action movie, and given this is yet another cool Xmas movie, I'm expanding my rule to say if Leong turns up in an Xmas movie it's an action Xmas classic by default.

Leong's appearance is proof Craig and Dolphy's Xmas Specacular is an action flick, but even without Leong the movie might meet the criteria because it has a lot of explosions. Most of the action is generated by the not so peaceful alien, played by Matthias Hues, who's the direct cause or the target of most of the explosions. And because this is a Baxley film that means Hues is around a lot of explosions. Dolph gets to show off his roundhouse kick a few times, so it's not a one alien show, but credit where it's due and Hues gets the accolade he deserves.

The movie is a wacky, at times convoluted affair, but it's usually easy to follow and good fun. It's a buddy cop movie where the buddy cops have to fight a Predator knock-off that's so low rent he's pretty much just a tall human with some high-tech killing toys.

The Scrooges at Shout Factory have released this film on a Region A locked Blu-ray. I bought my region switchable player because Dolph's my favourite action star and too many of his movies were coming out in Region A only releases, so at least I was prepared for this release. I've ranted about why I think region coding undermines the film industry's video piracy argument elsewhere on the site, so all I'll say here is that it really sucks that this is a locked disc. I know the locking decision might not always be entirely up to Shout Factory but it looks like this movie came out in conjunction with MGM who are usually sensible enough to keep their releases region free, so I'm blaming Shout Factory in this instance. If there's one thing that will make people go all Bah Humbug on us it's depriving them of a Dolph Lundgren Xmas movie, so locking out those with Region B and C players is a crime against humanity.
The Disc
Craig and Dolphy's Xmas Spectacular has a bit of macroblocking and unfortunately has several moments of edge enhancement. Overall the image is fine for a movie of this vintage and budget. Clarity can be great, but at times the image is a little soft. The print has a few spots and blemishes, but is mostly clean. The Blu-ray has a 5.1 remix and the original 2.0 track in DTS-HD Master Audio form, but the remix isn't listed on the cover. The remix is inoffensive, just including some directional touches where appropriate. It's not hugely immersive, as I frequently couldn't tell which track I'd left playing while watching the movie, but it does present the film in surround sound for those that need everything in surround sound. Both mixes are clear and crisp, with the 2.0 perhaps being a bit brighter sounding. As usual I ended up on the stereo mix, but this time it wasn't because the remix didn't sound quite right. The extras are interviews, the trailer and a poster and still gallery. The interviews are about 25 minutes long and are with Baxley, Lundgren and Benben. They talk about budget changes and beefing up the action, and everyone gives big props to Hues. After listening to them I have to admit that guy managed some amazing shit in this film. One of Benbens' bits repeats entirely, so I think the editor must've fallen asleep before making the final cut.
The Verdict
If there's a better way to spend to spend the holidays than watching Dolph kicking bad guys upside the head then I don't want to know about it.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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