Did you know that I COME IN PEACE is almost solely responsible for me picking up and moving across the country from New York to California without a second thought? OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s not that far off from the truth!
First of all, the Dolph Lundgren fronted 1990 sci-fi cult masterpiece I COME IN PEACE aka DARK ANGEL has to one of my favorite movies of this sort, and is most certainly my favorite of Dolph’s movies. I recall first finding it on video during its initial release and buying a previously viewed copy, and then catching countless re-runs of it on HBO.
Several years back before I officially lived in Los Angeles, I was in town for the annual Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors convention and had skimmed the calendar for The New Beverly Cinema to see if anything good was playing the weekend I was visiting. Sure enough, that Saturday evening, they had scheduled a Dolph Lundgren Film Festival. I shit you not.
It kicked off with RED SCORPION, followed by UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. The center piece of the 5 movie night showcased ROCKY IV, followed by the director’s cut of the 1989 THE PUNISHER and lastly, capped off with a midnight screening of a print of DARK ANGEL aka I COME IN PEACE. To this day, this was one of my absolute favorite theater going experiences. The fight at the end of ROCKY felt like being at an actual boxing match with how loud the audience cheered. THE PUNISHER with all the violent, gory bits still in tact is actually a really solid movie. And finally, never in a million years did I think I’d get to see one of my favorite late night cable staples on the big screen with a full audience. Dolph Fest was pretty much the moment I realized I needed to live in Los Angeles and, more importantly, near this magical mecca that shows these kinds of movies with nothing but love and respect.
Regarding the basic plot – Dolph plays Jack Caine, a no-nonsense undercover cop whose partner gets murdered by drug lord Victor Manning in a deal gone bad while he was distracted disarming a convenience store robbery. Simultaneously, a group of Manning’s men are all slaughtered by an unknown assailant and their entire batch of heroin is stolen from the scene. Who is this new mysterious hitman on the scene?
Caine is stuck with a new partner from the FBI, the uptight and dorky Agent Smith (Brian Benben of DREAM ON fame!) to follow up on the Manning case, which turns out to go far beyond what either of them is normally capable of handling. The culprit behind the recent string of murders involving wiseguys, as well as random people around town is a 7 foot tall alien from another world who injects a purely concentrated dose of heroin directly into the brains of his victims and then extracts the perfect “endorphins” from them. He’s, in simplest terms, a drug dealer from outer space.
His arch nemesis, an alien cop, is hot on his trail but gets mortally wounded during his pursuit. He makes Jack and his partner Smith promise that they’ll take out his rival before he returns back to their home planet. That’s Jack’s thing. He can never break a promise.
Directed by stunt legend Craig R. Baxley from a sharp script by Jonathan Tydor and David Koepp (!), I COME IN PEACE is fast paced, action packed and filled to the brim with fun, quirky one-liners and gags. The buddy cop pairing of Lundgren and Benben is perfect as Dolph is kind of the traditional bad-ass that breaks all the rules and Brian is the type that wears an expensive suit everyday and reports back regularly to his superiors. Because of that, Smith is a bit of a weenie for the majority of the movie, constantly reminding Jack of protocol and rank. He even drops that he makes more money than him!
But the reason he’s getting singled out in ths #RESPECT column is because of all the characters in the movie, he’s the one that shows the most growth from the beginning of the film to its finale. He essentially stops being a weenie and becomes pretty darned bad-ass in his own right.
The transformation is subtle. He’s still eager to please his bosses and even sells out one of Jack’s secret scientist contacts to the FBI when they acquire the disc/murder weapon from the alien. But once he realizes that his superiors are willing to compromise innocent lives, he decides that maybe Jack’s right and it’s time to kick this alien’s ass rather than step aside and let the government capture him.
During one tense car chase where Manning’s muscle is after the duo, Smith jumps into the back seat and pulls out a cannon of a gun, quickly clarifying, “it was a Christmas present from my mother.”
Later on, he even drops the fancy attire for one of Jack’s baseball jackets, which turns out to be one of his old coats from junior high. It fits Smith perfectly. While Agent Smith is the one that gets off a handful of shots against the drug dealing alien with an alien gun, Dolph is the one that delivers the final kill shot after looking into camera and delivering the line, “you go in pieces, asshole.”
The whole movie is epic and just a whole lot of fun. But I love it when a character you’re kind of supposed to hate for being annoying magically turns it all around and makes you love them by the end of the picture.
That in a nutshell is what Agent Smith does in I COME IN PEACE. And for that?
* I COME IN PEACE is available on Blu-Ray under its overseas title DARK ANGEL (with reversible cover art, so you can switch it to I COME IN PEACE) courtesy of our friends from Shout Factory! Pick up your copy here.