Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
“I Come in Peace.” If you remembered only one thing from 1990 Sci Fi Action flick I Come in Peace (originally titled Dark Angel) it would likely be the film’s villain constantly repeating the titular phrase while engaging in actions that were anything but peaceful. It certainly stuck with me (along with the climax of the film) and overall, I remember enjoying this over-the-top genre outing.
But how well does it hold up more than three decades later? Let’s find out. With a hulking SPOILER ALERT let’s retro review I Come in Peace aka Dark Angel in three pieces:
Piece #1 I’m Your Pusher Man
The film follows a cop and an FBI agent investigating a series of strange drug-related murders in Houston, which they discover are the work of extraterrestrial drug dealer Talec played by Matthias Hues. Talec is easily the best thing about the movie. German-born Hues cuts an imposing figure with his six feet, five-inch height, shoulder length blonde hair, black body armour and those creepy and piercing iris-less eyes. The first time the camera pans up to reveal him it is as scary as a scene in a slasher movie.
And what he does is equally as disturbing. Talec is on Earth to craft a highly valuable alien drug called “Barsi” from some hapless humans for the addicts on his home planet. He does this by injecting them with synthetic heroin, harvesting their endorphins with his alien tech and then synthesising the alien drug. It is a horrible way to go and Talec performs it with cold, brutal efficiency. Unlike other movie aliens, he’s not here to invade or take over the world; he’s just a murderous thug looking to make some intergalactic bucks. And it’s never explained why he keeps telling his victims and would-be victims “I Come in Peace” in his raspy voice. Maybe he saw it in a 50s Sci Fi movie or something and he believes it would put them at ease? It doesn’t make sense and comes off as darkly humorous.
Piece #2 When Larry Met Jack
The two humans attempting to put an end to Talec’s profit-fueled murder spree are rule-breaking vice cop Detective Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) and his new by-the-book FBI partner Special Agent Arwood “Larry” Smith (Brian Benben). By 1990, Lundgren had already racked up action credits as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, He-Man in Masters of the Universe and Frank Castle in The Punisher. And he does commendable work as tough guy cop Caine who can use both his brawn as well as his brains.
His odd couple, buddy cop relationship with Smith is not that innovative as the maverick-cop-paired-with-the-strait-laced partner bit had been done before (and since). But to both Lundgren and Benben’s credit they do bounce off each other well and deliver on the comedic elements. And I enjoyed Caine counting Smith’s “strikes” (offences) against him, and then punching him after “strike three.” Who doesn’t love a good build-up?
Piece #3 Extreme Action
I Come in Peace may have come out (no pun intended) in 1990 but it is packed to the brim with late 80s excess. You have the gratuitous nudity when the cop duo randomly visits a strip club. You have a wild car chase through the streets of Houston. And you have multiple things blowing up during the action sequences thanks to the overpowered alien firearms. It is big, explosive and loud and a heck of a lot of fun.
The story also has some additional layers which you usually don’t get in your average popcorn action flick. You have Caine’s guilt over losing his partner at the start of the film, the subplot of the supremely 80s white collar drug dealers the White Boys (because of course that’s what their called), and a second alien called Azeck who you are not sure is good or evil initially but is then revealed to be an extraterrestrial police officer.
The final confrontation between Caine and Talec is a good time. Caine uses his wits, physical strength and gun skills while Talec uses his superhuman strength and lethal brain puncturing device. Our human cop emerges the victor and when the wounded alien declares one last time “I come in peace” Caine delivers one of the sweetest, most punny retorts of all time, “…and you go in pieces” before blowing him to smithereens. I loved it 30 years ago and I still love it now. And while I Come in Peace is not the greatest Sci Fi action film ever (hey, that’s a good idea for a future list) it is an entertaining and memorable one that is worth revisiting.
Editor Jules’ Score: 7 out of 10
Are you a fan of I Come in Peace? What 90s Sci Fi action film should we review next? And you can check out more retro Sci Fi content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by the Cryptkeeper, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “13 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.