Saturday, April 16, 2016

DANGEROUS MEN (2005) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Drafthouse Films 
Release Date: April 22nd 2016 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 80 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: John S. Rad
Cast: Melody Wiggins, Kelay Miller, Bryan Jenkins, Coti Cook, John Clure, Carlos Rivas, Lawrence McNeal III

Synopsis: After Mina witnesses her fiance's brutal murder by beach thugs, she sets out on a venomous spree to eradicate all human trash from Los Angeles. Armed with a knife, a gun, and an undying rage, she murders her way through the masculine half of the city's populace. A renegade cop is hot on her heels, a trail that also leads him to the subhuman criminal overlord known as Black Pepper. It's a pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, brain-devouring onslaught of '80s thunder, '90s lightning, and pure filmmaking daredevilry from another time and/or dimension. Blades flash, blood flows, bullets fly and synthesizers blare as the morgue overflows with the corpses of Dangerous Men.

Sweet Jesus, what did I just watch? Dangerous Men is a twenty-six years in the making L.A. crime thriller that defies expectations and logic at nearly every turn, the movie begins proper with two young lovers having a pleasant walk on the L.A. beach when they are accosted by two very bad bikers. The end result of the encounter is that the woman's lover and one of the the attackers lay dead and the beach, with the nearly-raped woman leaving with her new found biker friend - who keep in mind just murdered her fiance - to enjoy a meal at a restaurant before engaging in some awkward naval and knee kink back at a hotel room. Fear not though, this young woman has not fallen in love with said biker who murdered her lover, she is merely gaining his trust so that she can pull a knife out of from between her ass cheeks and stab him to death! 

Afterward she is picked-up by a businessman type who attempts to rape her, oops, bad move. She manages to turn the tables on the would-be rapist and before you know it she has a knife pressed up against his cock, leaving him stranded nude  in the desert while she drives off with his car. The camera lingers on him for way too long as he wanders nude through the barren landscape, speaking aloud to himself as he contemplates his poor life choices. This is the start of Dangerous Men, a weird movie made by a madman, a mind-melting shot on 35mm film that sort of recalls the ludicrous lo-fi cinema of shot-on-video schlock we saw in the '80s, chock full of uncomfortable nudity, plenty of stabbings, and strange tangential sub plots that come and go without rhyme or reason, this is just an oddball slice of cinema, one that at certain times just drops characters and follows others with little to no logic, sort of akin to Richard Linklater's Slacker. 

The movie was started in the '80s and that seems to be where the near-rape revenge story comes into play, this is the part that I enjoyed the most as our heroine goes on a one-woman murder spree, shooting and stabbing her way through a series of rapey-men. Melody Wiggins as Mina has a certain wide-eyed charm about her, she's not quite as wooden as many of the non-actors in the movie, but at about the 45-minute mark she disappears from the movie, in her place we follow her fiancee's brother who is investigating the death of his brother while attempting to clear Mina's name, her having been named as a suspect in the man-killing  murder-spree, which devolves into a crime-thriller revolving around an elusive criminal mastermind named Black Pepper - though White Pepper may have been more appropriate, the dude is a blond mullet headed dude in workout pants and a bandana, the guy screams '90s cheese from every pore.

Throw traditional narrative and movie making concepts out the door, this one is marching to an '80s and '90s beat all it's own, along the way there is more attempted rape with the expected repercussions, plenty of revenge, more bad bikers and enough awful-staged action to numb your mind to just how bad this movie is. Describing it is near impossible without sounding like a madman, theres a certain dream logic in the way the scenes flow into one another without any transitional material. One moment were following Mina, the next watching Black Pepper make-out with his girlfriend while they watch an exotic belly-dancer before heading to the bedroom where we are treated to more knee-kissing and some muff-diving, there's a brief chase and hen the whole thing comes to an abrupt freeze-frame end, and not one of those cool 70's shocker endings either, its more like waking up from a weird dream just before you get to the good part. it's just over, role credits, leaving you dazed and confused.

This temple of cinematic awful was directed by John S. Rad, a former Iranian architect who immigrated to the US after the Iranian Revolution in '79, soon after he set out to make his own L.A. based crime thriller and this fevered mess was the end result, an unintentionally hilarious revenger that was made over a period of nearly 30 years by a cast of unknowns who probably wish this movie would have never seen the light of day, particularly actress Melody Wiggins whom according to some of the interviews and commentaries does not wish to be associated with the movie in any way she never thought this would get an official release, clearly she underestimated the resolve of John S. Rad, who in 2005 finally got his slice of D.I.Y weirdness into a few theatres in in L.A., garnering a cult-following when a few choice taste-makers in the schlock community found it to their liking, and thus we have this Blu-ray release from cult connoisseurs Drafthouse Films. 

The movie arrives on Blu-ray from Drafthouse films framed in 1.85 aspect ratio with a nice layer of fine film grain and some decent fine detail, with only a smattering of grime, grit and minor print damage. It may not be the most eye-popping HD you've ever seen but for what this is the presentation looks fantastic, The only audio option is a Dolby Digital Stereo and that lossy option does just fine, dialogue and sound effects comes through clean, while the John S. Rad composed synth score, which is also delightfully awful, sounds cheese-tastic.  

Drafthouse have given this surreal revenge-thriller quite a gorgeous Blu-ray release, the disc comes housed in a Criterion style clear Blu-ray case with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the Drafthouse artwork and the charmingly awful original theatrical poster artwork. There's a 16-page booklet with the only documented full-length interview with John S. Rad, plus a DRM-free HD Digital Copy of the movie, the code for which comes on a collectible insert card featuring a cartoon version of White Pepper. 

Extras on the disc include the mini-doc 'That's So John Rad' about the film and its original 2005 theatrical release, including an interview with the director's daughter who reveals some peculiar things about her auteur movie maker father, including that he threatened her with a gun for talking with a boy against his wishes and punishing her by taking her car, which she did not realize until years later he used in this movie, pushing it off a mountain in a scene. 

There's also an interview with director of photography Peter Palian who has actually directed a few movies I am familiar with, namely the Samurai Cop movies, he reveals details about the director style, how cheap he could be when it came to feeding the cast and crew, and his easy recipe for tomato juice. Additionally there's a fun audio commentary featuring Destroy All Movies authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connelly who know a thing or two about trash cinema, and they're perfect for this commentary. The last of the extras a trailers for this movie and a selection of other Drafthouse Films releases. 

Special Features:

- 16-page booklet featuring only documented full-length interview with John S. Rad
- Audio commentary featuring Destroy All Movies authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connelly
- That's So John Rad - An original documentary about the film and its original 2005 theatrical release (27 Mins) HD 
- Rare footage of John S. Rad appearing on local access television (48 Mins) HD 
- Interview with director of photography Peter Palian (11 Mins) HD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 
- Dangerous Men Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Dangerous Men Teaser (1 Mins) HD 
- Drafthouse Films Trailers: Miami Connection (2 Mins) HD, Ms. 45 (1 Mins) HD, Roar (2 Mins) HD, Trailer War (1 Mins) HD 
DRM-free HD Digital Copy

Dangerous Men (2005) is a movie custom made for trash cinema connoisseurs and bad movie lovers, if I did not know that this movie was an actual relic from the past I might have assumed it was a contemporary movie that was riffing on cheesy, so-bad-they're-good cinema from the '80s, but in my opinion you cannot craft something this weird by design, it's too weird to be planned, this is the sort of stuff that just happens in a vacuum outside of the mainstream. This release from Drafthouse is top-notch, made with love, and a fine tribute to the demented John S. Rad and his dream of making a movie in America.