Dark Angel

Dark Angel
December 11th 2023

“Merry fuckin’ Christmas” is the third or fourth line in Dark Angel (1990), exclaimed moments after a distracted driver careens into a lot of spruce trees. Though rarely, if ever, mentioned in the same breath as seasonal genre classics like Die Hard (1988) or Lethal Weapon (1987), Dark Angel (also released as I Come In Peace), deserves a place alongside the holiday crime mainstays as a novel skewering of yuletide cheer.

Directed by long time stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley, who made his directorial debut two years prior with Action Jackson (1988), Dark Angel establishes itself a unique blend of sci-fi and horror in its opening sequences, which feature a mysterious man with white eyes who has the powerful, and indeed confounding, ability to shoot people with compact discs. These sharp projectiles cut through everything in sight, naturally including people. As with Action Jackson, Baxley isn’t intent on offering a traditional genre film, but instead opts for something more chameleon-like and difficult to pin down.

Dolph Lundgren stars as a Houston cop with a grudge against authority and a city full of heroin, who will stop at nothing to put the city’s main drug pusher behind bars, teaming up with the FBI following the murder of his partner by our CD-slinging mysterious man. During his investigation, in which many bodies turn up all bearing the same bizarre forehead puncture wound, Lundgren’s character discovers an extraterrestrial existence in Houston and finds an unlikely ally in an alien cop.

A tonally awry blend of police procedural and Predator (a film for which Baxley worked as stunt coordinator and second unit director), Dark Angel serves as one of the earlier attempts at injecting some Christmas spirit into science-fiction, much like Charles Band’s time travel opus Trancers (1984). But what sets Dark Angel apart from Band’s film or even its more popular holiday crime brethren is Baxley’s penchant for over-the-top action sequences, including a staggering amount of pyrotechnics. Much of this is due to the alien antagonist’s airborne CDs (which turn out to be ultra thin, magnet discs made from an extraterrestrial material) which ricochet around any set they’re in. Clearly, subtlety is not Baxley’s strong suit. “Merry fuckin’ Christmas,” indeed.

Dark Angel shows at Alamo New Mission on 35mm Wednesday, December 13.