When my coworker sent mea link to a screening of "Dangerous Men,"he correctly guessed it would be my cup of tea. Or more appropriately, my can of cheap beer.
"Dangerous Men" is the passion project of an Iranian filmmaker who moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s. (I imagine what we now call a "passion project" would be calledan "egomanical indulgence" in the '70s.) Director John S.Rad started work on "Dangerous Men" circa 1984 and didn'tscreen his finished film until 2005. Without wide commercial support, the film disappeared --- until a few fans convinced Drafthouse Films to distribute it. Now youfinally have a chance to see what Drafthousequite appropriately describes as "a rampaging gutter epic of crime, revenge, cop sex, and raw power."
That sounds weird.Should I See It?
Yes. Yes you should. Ideal conditions for this movie involve around or two of drinks and a venue that will allow you to talk in not-so-quiet tones about the mayhem unfolding on screen. To my eyes, it shares many of the best qualities of "The Room"(which I somehow manage to bring up toooften) in its marriage of amateur talent and expansive vision.So, fans of cult movies --- and entertainment that pairs well with drinking --- read on.
Things to look forward to
The creative team:A.K.A. John Rad. The movie's creator / writer / producer / composer / lyricist / executive producer / director is an auteur for the ages, and has a great backstory. Born in Iran in 1936, Jahangir Salehi Yeganehrad was an architect in Tehran, where he also produced 11 feature films. When he moved to L.A., he decided to make "Dangerous Men" as an independent film. He alsocame up with a showbiz alias, John S. Rad. I would very much like to read more about this man's life, but I have the feeling it's a rabbit hole for another day. But most importantly, there's nothing better than a sequence of opening credits that keeps showing the same name over and over.
The (loose) plot: I did noresearch before the screening, so I assumed "Dangerous Men" would fall into some sort of action / kung fu / '80s extravaganza genre. Guess again! It's actually a revenge moviewith one part lady murderer on a killing spree, one part insubordinate cophell-bent on investigating his brother's death (and also doing some murder).
That sounds like a cohesive film, but throw in a really long exposition, a few wildcard scenes, and a hunt tofind the killer who is dead within the first half-hour, it becomes a delightful montage of seduction and violence.
The first 15 minutes hammers it into our skulls that a young couple is in love. I never really figured out what their names are, but according to the film's sitethey are Danieland Mina (or Mira, depending on which part of the press kit you go by).They make out a lot (like a lot), stare into each other's eyes, and eventually get engaged.
The lovebirds are sparkin' on the beach when they're attacked by two bikers. Daniel is able to kill one assailant, but ends up getting murdered by the other while Mina looks on. Watching her true love dieignites a powerfulrage in Mina'sheart, and she becomes a SoCal femme fatale. Minaseduces the survivingbiker ---and then stabs him to death in the back with a serrated steak knife. This becomes her signature bloody move. She hits the streets,posing as a prostitute to lure men into quiet places before she brutally stabs them to death. This act is always performed in silhouette behind a dramatically lit curtain / sheet.
Meanwhile, Daniel's brother David finds out about his murder. David is a cop, so he immediately wants to start working the case despite being barred from it. David ignores his commanding officerand starts following leads inthe biker underworld. This part was confusing to me, but for some reason David decides there are darker forces at play besides two veryaggrobikers, so he launches his own investigation. Eventually he circles in on the king biker and underworld overlord, Black Pepper. Which is such an unexpected biker name! I love it. Love love love it. Someone please name your new kittenBlack Pepper. Anyway, David uses his cop skills to find and eventually fight "BP" (as the other bikers call him).
And that's pretty much it --- the film ends with a freeze frame and I had a lot of unresolved questions. (I was also drinking so it's 100 percent possible I missed a few important plot points. But I don't think so.)
The wildcard scenes:They appear without warning, and disappear without explanation. They leave you to wonder: Was that on purpose? Did I miss something? Will I ever see that unnamed character again?
The opening scene is a great example: A man we later learn to be David creepsdown a dramatically lit path, approaches a large house, and sneaks in the front door. We see his shadow loom as he walks up the stairs and then opens the door to a bedroom. Inside, a woman lies sprawled on the bed. Supposedly she is asleep, althoughshe her sexy pose looks suspiciously intentional. Mysteriously, rather than resting her head on a pillow she is positioned halfway down the bed. Anyway, creepy David wakes her up, she's surpised, then you find out it's their anniversary and they make out.And then you never see her again.
Later in the film, David is talking to his partner (maybe? he's another cop, at least). We see the officer pick up aphone and then the scene cuts back and forth between the officer and his wife / girlfriend / lover as she berates him to come home. Then it cuts to a very naked scene of them having sex for no more than 20 seconds, then mysteriously cuts back to the officer and David talking about police matters.We never see the wife / girlfriend / lover again.
A tenuous relationship with time and space:Perhaps my favorite moment of the movie comes towards the end while David is on his revenge rampage. He's staked out in a biker bar, and watches as a young blond woman walks into the bathroom. A moment later, a biker follows her in. Knowing that bikers are no good, David also enters the restroom. Then there's a sudden cut to a beach. There, the same biker is assaulting the young woman. David, who is also at the beach, proceeds to kick butt, and the movie continues, withDavid's trip up the coast with his new lady sidekick. How the three characters moved from the bathroom of a biker bar to a beach at midday with no time lost is never explained. No otherpart of the movie is governed by these suspended laws of time and space.
The score:It never changes. Do you think asuspenseful scene should be scored with a bouncy '80s melody? John Rad does. Every scene has the exactsame music. (You can hear a few selects from the movie here, but the theme is below)
The dialogue: There are so many quotable lines. Some of my favorites include:
"You're lucky you're dead --- you killed my only friend." --- Biker to Daniel's corpse
"You know what they say on the streets --- nobody knows anything." --- cryptic wisdom from one police officer to another
"I told him to stay away from this case, but who can blame him? He's a cop." --- Police Chief
Closing disclaimer: In the end credits, you're assured that "The events depicted in this movie are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental." I know that this is a standard bit of legalese, but I love the idea that someone might think "Dangerous Men"stole their life story.
The only flaw, in my book
Pacing:The only weak spot in this movie. It is supposedly only 80 minutes, but it felt like a solid two hours. At one point, the film kept cutting back and forth between Mina and a truck driver she chased off after he tries to rape her (basically every man Mina meets tries to rape her). The film cuts back and forth between Mina driving while crying and a naked man running through the desert for what felt like five minutes. This prompted one audience member to yell, "We don't want to see this guy anymore!"
"Dangerous Men" will continue to play through the end of the year; you can check hereto see if the film will be screened in your area. New Yorkers, you're in luck --- "Dangerous Men" will be screened again at Nighthawk Cinemas on December 11th and 12th.