When Drafthouse Films proclaims their new repertory acquisition to be the “Holy Grail of Holy Fucking Shit,” you take notice. After all this is the studio that brought Roar and Miami Connection back to the big screen. Their latest is a film that has fallen into cinematic legend, Dangerous Men. Decades in production, the film was finally completed in 2005, and was pulled after a very short theatrical release in L.A. Outside of a handful of repertory cinema screenings the film has been seen by few, a problem Drafthouse Films now seeks to rectify.
The creative force behind Dangerous Men was John S. Rad, an Iranian-born filmmaker whose ‘talents’ also extended to writing, producing, editing, set design, and so on. Basically, there is no doubting this is his vision. The result feels like a foreign action thriller with all the roles reassigned to American actors. A love tale disrupted by violence, a woman seeking retribution against a host of abusive men, and biker gangs. Encircling this is a criminal overlord, Black Pepper. The movie defies all film-making logic but somehow still achieves greatness. The plot, such as it is, is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film. Intertwining plot strands are picked up and dropped at random intervals with little explanation; however, there is a core thread that is best explained by the film’s IMDB entry:
While watching, you’d be forgiven for thinking an unknown Ed Wood film had been newly discovered, showcasing his take on the ’80s action thriller. The acting is atrocious; emotional beats are mistimed or misplaced completely. There is a disjointed structure and narrative where every creative decision is the wrong one, but it coalesces into something mesmerizing. With Dangerous Men, John S. Rad has somehow shown that multiple wrongs CAN make a right – despite amateur acting, unconvincing fight scenes, and an inability to leave one second of the film without a score. The soundtrack draws from ’80s synth, with melodies repeating incessantly on a loop. More questionable than these choices is how they are used; it’s unfathomable that similar music accompanies scenes that depict a love scene and another where a woman is abducted and abused.
A curious undercurrent runs through the film, a hateful misogyny towards women. But there is an interesting counterpoint with the central plot having a wronged woman exacting revenge on men she deems worthy of it. Women are largely fodder for the men in the film, Mina being the exception. A woman wronged, having lost the man she loves, she goes a long way to redress the balance, seducing and eliminating these “dangerous men” after her fiance’s murder. Some may see the film as showing a battle of the sexes; however this may be giving too much credit to Rad. Unclear what his aims were, it’s as if an alien in a distant galaxy watched every action thriller of the ’80s and tried to make his own version with no understanding of how films or people work. Cramming in set pieces and emotional arcs with wild abandon, it is frenetic trash and inexplicable entertainment.
Drafthouse Pictures continues their sterling work showcasing utterly inexplicable repertory cinema. One of the most gloriously baffling and yet mesmerizing films I have ever seen, Dangerous Men casts off the shackles of cinematic structure and logic; however, it is impossible to not be charmed and amazed by what it achieves.