The film is a lot of fun, though also of the sort you’re more likely to enjoy if you watch it with a few friends and a lot of beers.
Alongside highbrow fare, distributor Drafthouse Films have carved a niche for themselves with weirdo rescues of soon-to-be cult films of past decades—think Miami Connection, The Visitor, Roar. Their newest stop down this road is John Rad’s Dangerous Men, which has more than a little bit of a whatsit quality to it. For starters, it was finished and released in 2005, but looks as old or older than the 1988-released Miami Connection. The plot is at once followable and utterly nonsensical—it features tough-guy bikers who eat crinkle-cut fries with forks, girls who request knee-stroking and belly button-kissing as a sex act, and reaction shots of people giving no discernible reaction whatsoever—and in general it explores new and unheard of methods of badness. But in a good way, of course.
As the film begins, we follow Mina (Melody Wiggins), a young woman who is devoted to her fiancée (Coti Cook). After a run-in with two bikers on a beach, her fiancée winds up dead, and Mina narrowly escapes being raped. Inexplicably, at this point the previously-wholesome Mina decides to take up with her fiancée’s murderer and her own would-be rapist, but only as a means to exact revenge on the first of many Dangerous Men she encounters. From there she becomes something of an uncostumed superhero, ferreting out and cutting down any of L.A.’s many would-be rapists. But, Dangerous Men is an odd enough film that it is never shy about staying with minor characters for much longer than most filmmakers would find necessary, and eventually it gets distracted from Mina and her quest altogether, and instead focuses on the slain fiancée’s police officer brother Daniel (Kelay Miller), who is trying to track down a criminal overlord named Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins), who also happens to be the son of Mina’s fiancée’s murderer.
The film is a lot of fun, though also of the sort you’re more likely to enjoy if you watch it with a few friends and a lot of beers. Though it’s being positioned as a great unknown 80s action schlockfest, the film most will find it comparable to is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Not that the two films have much in common in terms of plot, genre, and specific ways in which they break rules of film construction, but they do both exhibit a similar strain of overall weirdness—it’s telling that in the special features, those who first discovered the film said that they thought it was a hoax and that no one could ever be trying to make a decent film and have it turn out like this.
But one man did, and that man is John Rad. Get used to seeing his name—in the film’s Buffalo ’66-like credits, he posts his own name six times in the opening credits and five times in the end crawl. Rad is an Iranian expatriate, previously employed as an architect, who fled to America just before the reign of Ayatollah Khomeini begun in 1979. He was working on Dangerous Men off and on for literally decades—sources in the special features cite him as having started shooting it in 1984 and finishing it just before its brief release in 2005, and then he died of prostate cancer in 2006. There’s evidence in the film of its long production, too; aside from noticeable differences in costume design, colors, etc., he is good enough (or bad enough?) to have visible calendars in the background of some scenes, which clue you in not to when the scene was set (the events of the movie supposedly take place over the course of ten days), but when it was shot.
As for those special features, they’re a mixed bag. A commentary track from Destroy All Movies authors Zack Carlson (who is also a programmer of Fantastic Fest) and Bryan Connolly is neither particularly good nor particularly bad—it has a few interesting tidbits in it and is good for a couple of chuckles, but is not in most ways particularly memorable. An interview with the cinematographer Peter Palian is interesting (Palian, who also shot Samurai Cop, stayed with Rad for the full 22 years of the shoot), as is a 26-minute featurette (“That’s So John Rad”) on the initial 2005 release of the film. Drafthouse trailers are always welcome, and this disc features seven—three for Dangerous Men, four for other Drafthouse releases. The booklet includes an interesting and weirdly sweet interview with Rad performed by the LA Weekly in 2005. And, as a stab at definitiveness, the disc also includes a full 48-minute episode of a local access show called Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett, in which Rad appears for all of five minutes total. This episode is supremely, pulverizingly irritating, and while the disc would have been better off without it, it does have an unintended side effect of highlighting that there’s a good kind of bad (Dangerous Men) and a bad kind of bad (Queer Edge). | Pete Timmermann