Films like DANGEROUS MEN don't come along all that often. It is, as one interviewee puts it in this release's extras, "special".
We realise this mere seconds into the film, as the repetitive funky score embeds itself into our brains and we meet a handsome cop (Michael Gradilone) enjoying an evening meal with his smitten wife (Roya Saghafy). She's shot dead - I think it's her? - in a convenience store robbery a short while later.
Meanwhile, the cop's younger brother Daniel (Michael Hurt) is also madly in love. The object of his affections is attractive brunette Mina (Melody Wiggins). After obtaining both her father's blessing (and permission, presumably for good measure) they decide they're going to get married.
What better way to celebrate than to spend a romantic afternoon together on the beach? Alas, a local gang of bikers has the same idea. Of course, such meetings can never end well ... In this instance, Daniel ends up with a knife in his belly and Mina narrowly escapes getting raped.
She's quick to take her aggressor on though, turning on the charm and coaxing him to a nearby hotel room with the promise of consensual sex (yes, her boyfriend has just been stabbed to death in front of her, mere seconds ago). Her would-be rapist obliges but, hey, it was just a ruse: she was carrying a blade between her bum cheeks the whole time. Why? I didn't think to ask...
Anyhow, from this point onwards Mina takes no shit when it comes to men who treat women like dirt. And, unsurprisingly, she has an uncanny habit of running into that type. Whether it be the middle-aged guy who picks her up in his car, or ... well, you get the picture. She becomes an avenging angel of sorts.
Elsewhere, Daniel's cop brother gets wind of his sibling's murder and vows to track down the remaining members of the violent biker gang responsible. This includes blonde-haired gang leader Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins), who likes to cause trouble and bother women wherever he goes.
Yep, DANGEROUS MEN really is special. Special in the same regard that MIAMI CONNECTION, BIRDEMIC and THE ROOM are special. Whether it be actors blatantly reading their lines from script pages, terrible sound editing that cuts off dialogue mid-sentence or the absurdly cheesy score - which sounds like it hopped straight out of an 80s comedy movie - this film is special.
The performances are just that. They are brilliantly camp without ever trying to be. The script is terrible, of course - pure hokum - and these actors are far too inept to take it and fashion it into anything but utter tripe. There are sex scenes, some with nudity: they are the ugliest such scenes imaginable. Not only are the performers unfortunately unglamorous, but the lighting, framing and editing of these sequences - coupled with that awful funky score - ensure they are the antithesis of erotica at every turn.
The violence is unintentionally hilarious, such is the calamity with which it's been executed. There's a late fist-fight which has to be seen to be disbelieved; whenever someone gets shot, they go in for the Oscar-worthy death scene. Priceless.
The guy to thank for all of this is the late John S Rad. His real name was apparently Jahangir Salehi, and he was a successful architect in Iran before deciding to take his wealth and impressive self-belief, and channel them into making movies. To this end DANGEROUS MEN, shot in America, has Rad's stamp all over it: he wrote, directed, produced, co-edited, handled the casting, scouted for locations, recorded the sound and even composed the score. The film began production in 1979 but wasn't completed until sometime in the 1990s. It didn't get a theatrical release until 2005 (Rad himself paid for advertising and duplicate prints to made for screening in cinemas).
The results are compellingly awful. Take the chase scene between an elderly police chief and Black Pepper during the final act, for example. I doubt there's ever been a slower on-foot chase ever filmed. Or the Seinfeld-esque basslines that repeat themselves ad nauseum, usually at the most inappropriate moments. And ... what's with Rad's predilection with his actresses knees?!
From cheesy love songs naively playing over romantic interludes to the most woefully choreographed instances of fisticuffs imaginable, you really need to see DANGEROUS MEN for yourself to see how inept it is. And when I say you need to see it, of course ... you need to see it. It is, in its own peculiar and totally ironic (without meaning to be) way, brilliant.
Drafthouse Films clearly agree, as they've spent the last few years trying to get Rad's daughter to release the film rights to them. Finally they've succeeded and have furnished the film with a rather spiffing home video release.
This 2-disc set comprises of a blu-ray disc, DVD, and a coupon entitling its holder to a digital download of the film.
Looking at the region-free blu-ray disc, the film is presented uncut with a running time of 79 minutes and 40 seconds.
Housed as an MPEG4-AVC file, the 1080p HD picture presents the film in its original 1.85:1 ratio and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Shot on film, there's a healthy sheen of natural grain evident while colours, blacks and texture all come across as satisfyingly authentic. Visually, you're probably not going to be surprised when I tell you this isn't a very stylish film, and so the presentation here isn't one that's going to flex your home cinema system's muscles or wow your mates. But, for what it is, it represents the film perfectly well.
English mono audio is reliable throughout. There are cut-outs on occasion, and you should expect instances of hissing beneath post-recorded lines of dialogue. But these are all clearly symptomatic of the manner in which DANGEROUS MEN was filmed. If anything, they add to the overall experience.
The disc opens to a wonderfully funny animated main menu page, which focuses on the great fist-fight mentioned earlier in this review (where the dubbed grunts of the actors sound like they've been lifted from a "Street Fighter" video game).
From there, a scene selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.
Bonus features begin with an affectionate audio commentary track from Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, authors of "Destroy all Movies". There is the odd fact here and there, but prepare for giggles over anything else.
I truly enjoyed "That's So John Rad", a 26-minute documentary which manages to interview the director's daughter and grandkids, as well as a handful of journalists who were fortunate to catch the film on the big screen upon its initial release. Rad sounds like an eccentric chap, even to the point that he once pulled a gun on his own daughter to stop her from speaking to men.
A 10-minute interview with the film's cinematographer, Peter Palian, features some amusing stories about how oblivious Rad was to his own inabilities as a filmmaker, and also his reluctance to pay to feed his cast.
There's also rare footage of Rad being interviewed, courtesy of the inclusion of a full 47-minute episode of cable TV show "Queer Edge". This is an alarmingly amateur show, presumably unscripted, where the cameraman seems to be prone to unrehearsed zoom-ins at any given moment. Sandra Bernhardt is overbearing host Jack E Jett's main guest, but Rad is around long enough to essentially get ignored for half an hour. Still, he manages to smile politely throughout.
The film's original theatrical trailer is a riot, as is the teaser trailer. We also get trailers for a couple more Drafthouse titles, including the aforementioned MIAMI CONNECTION and the sublime MS 45.
The DVD contains the same extras, along with the film in standard definition.
Rounding off this impressive package are double-sided cover art and a nice 16-page colour booklet containing an archive interview with the ever-intriguing Rad.
I wouldn't normally recommend something this hopeless but, yes, DANGEROUS MEN is indeed very special and I can't see how you could possibly not be entertained by it. Drafthouse have served it extremely well with this generous release.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Drafthouse Films|
|see main review|