A businessman drives home late one night in his expensive car, when his CD player refuses to play his CD, spitting it out with some force. The businessman tries to fix the problem while driving, which almost leads him to crash into an oncoming truck, and he stops in the bushes at the roadside. Getting out, he surveys the damage to his vehicle when suddenly something hurtles screaming out of the skies and blows up his car, throwing him about ten feet across the ground. Worse than that, a spinning disk flies at him, killing him instantly. The culprit? A towering figure in a long black coat who can only say, "I come in peace" before unleashing mayhem. Across the city, Detective Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is on a case, little knowing his paths will soon cross with the mysterious stranger...
One of those films which enjoyed a cult following on home video, and written by Jonathan Tydor and Leonard Maas Jr, Dark Angel is typical of the science fiction cop genre that came to prominence during the eighties, looking similar to titles like The Terminator, The Hidden or Predator 2. Starring the less expensive Arnold Schwarzenegger that is Mr Lundgren, it has all the hallmarks of the action movie of the time, with a reluctant buddy relationship at its heart, in the vein of 48 Hrs. While Caine is listening in on a nightclub transaction between his undercover partner and a drug baron who has stolen a large amount of heroin from a police station (and blown the building up for good measure), the grocery store next door is robbed by armed thieves and Caine is forced to intervene, resulting in the loss of his friend and the drugs when the criminals realise they're being fooled.
This means Caine's boss (a belligerent one, of course) wants him to take a vacation immediately, but the F.B.I. has become involved with the case, and want Caine to help. For a new partner, Caine is offered F.B.I. Agent Smith (Ben Brianbrian - no, Brian Benben) with no opportunity to turn him down. The agent is a strictly by the book law enforcer, at odds with Caine's maverick methods (you could write this yourself, couldn't you?) and the two men enter into an uneasy, suspicious association which naturally warms up over the course of the movie until they're best friends by the finale. Just in case you think there's any funny business going on, Caine has a girlfriend (Betsy Brantley), a pathologist who is handy for examining the bodies left in the killer's wake. We never find out if Smith has a girlfriend, though.
And the bodies pile up, as it's not the gangsters who have made away with the drugs, no, it's the killer, who used his deadly, spinning CD on them and left them all pushing up the daisies. What does he need the heroin for? We find out when we see the hulking, white-eyed villain attack an innocent civillian by firing a tube into their chest, injecting them with the narcotic and sucking out the endorphins from their brain with another tube. It should be clear to you now that the villain is a space alien ("bad alien" in the credits - Matthias Hues), but he has a pursuer in the form of a "good alien" (Jay Bilas), who is following him around the city, leading them to fire extremely powerful guns at each other, usually resulting in the film's favourite effect, blowing up cars and sending them flying into the air.
So far so ordinary, but the reason this was picked up on as a preferred rental is the regular flashes of wit in the script and performances. Having the baddie proclaim "I come in peace," before launching an attack shows a sense of humour, and Lundgren and Benben have a pleasing chemistry with Smith as the butt of the jokes for much of the time. The whole cop working outside the system and doing a better job of those working within it plotline had been done to death even by this time, but here it only serves to make for comfortably familiar viewing, and if Dark Angel is never going to push back any boundaries, it never intends to, simply doing its best with some hackneyed elements. And its best is pretty good, with fast pacing and a near-constant stream of fights, car chases and explosions to keep you entertained. Music by Jan Hammer.