Why Did I Watch This?
In addition to releasing plenty of solid modern films, Alamo Drafthouse’s upstart distribution company Drafthouse Films has made a name for themselves by finding unique hidden “gems” within the annals of forgotten cinema. From The Visitor to Miami Connection to Roar, they have curated a baffling library of one-of-a-kind visions that transcend definitions of “bad” or “good.” As seen in Dangerous Men’s trailer, this falls firmly into that group of oddball lost films and potentially is the most balls-to-the-wall insane of the bunch.
How Did I Watch It?
In true “Under the Influence” fashion, I caught this with a medium-sized group at Videology, which is a bar/screening room in Brooklyn, NY. My wife and I slammed a few carafes of Six Point Sweet Action while surrounded by a gaggle of hipsters. That last detail may become important later.
Regardless, I’m a pretty big fan of Sweet Action. I go to Videology weekly for movie trivia, so I end up drinking a lot of it on a regular basis, as that’s my favorite beer of theirs on tap. It is incredibly smooth and has some perfectly subtle caramel notes with a bit of a dry finish.
What Did I Watch?
Dangerous Men is absolutely indescribable. It honestly deserves several rewatches just to parse out the story and understand exactly the wackiness on display. Here’s more or less what happened, I think…
Mina (Melody Wiggins) and her fiancé are walking down the beach when attacked by a biker gang who kill her betrothed and try to sexually assault her. To defuse the situation she obviously asks one of the bikers out to dinner, takes him up to a hotel room, and kills him. Thus begins her bloody tale of revenge against the “dangerous men” who would have it in mind to harm women.
This leads awkwardly into the next plot point when her dead fiancé’s police officer brother is tasked with hunting down the new serial killer who, unbeknownst to him, is actually his ex-future sister-in-law. This somehow puts him on the path of Black Pepper, the son of Mina’s first victim: the biker who killed her significant other. Although her killing spree is the impetus for all this, Mina is all but absent from the rest of the movie while these new characters are introduced. There is one scene where they kind of show her get arrested but it’s edited even more strangely than the rest of the movie and is surprisingly perfunctory. The reason for this is that Dangerous Men was 26 years in the making. Actors came and went but instead of moving on to a new film, director John Rad improvised with dramatic 180 degree story shifts at the drop of a hat. Even without this background knowledge of the filming process, audiences will find themselves befuddled by multiple protagonist changes and a clear evolution of clothing styles from the 70’s through the 90’s.
So the cop with a tertiary relationship to the original protagonist is hunting down the son of the original antagonist and this is where things go really off the rails. Of course, the police officer disappears with absolutely no explanation. All of the sudden his police chief boss begins chasing down Black Pepper and the crook’s insanely dumb wig, presumably because the original police actor quit.
And then Dangerous Men just kind of fizzles out. Again, it’s very difficult to talk about this movie in logical terms. It isn’t quite one of those laugh-out-loud bad films where you know something completely insane will happen every few seconds. I mean, something completely insane does happen every few seconds… however these wild moments happen on a different level than any movie I’ve seen before. It’s almost as if the brain can’t be prepared to process such haphazard storytelling.
The overwhelming badness comes in a nonsensical smash-cut that happens before a scene feels over. Or the nagging feeling that the major character you haven’t seen in 15 minutes won’t show up again. Or an extended scene of “comedic” relief where a naked man talks to his own penis while hiding in the bushes for what feels like an eternity.
This film was made with a remarkably singular vision. John Rad wrote, produced, directed, edited, designed, and composed the entire movie. And oh boy, did he compose it. A thuddingly repetitive electronic approximation of a bass guitar pops and walks all over every scene. At first it’s puzzling, then it’s painful, and then it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
Without a doubt, my biggest belly laugh came at the ending. There’s nothing especially punchy about it, but “The End” pops up in a way that is so abrupt and unexpected that the only response is to guffaw. At this point, a hero who was introduced 20 minutes prior kills a villain who was introduced 15 minutes prior while rescuing a blind woman who was introduced 5 minutes prior. Ta-da! Hilarious!
It’s really a testament to how uniquely incomprehensible the film is that Dangerous Men even gets to that point in the story at all. In fact, while watching this, one’s mind likely goes through the same mental gymnastics as it does for some of the more critically-acclaimed, avant garde classics. It would seriously be worth it to compare MRIs of someone watching this versus someone watching a (shockingly more coherent) Jodorowsky or Buñuel joint for the first time.
The movie was enjoyable enough… it’s the audience that was the lowpoint for this one. The raucous laughter in the front row felt belabored and obnoxious. “HAHA! It’s a Volvo!! I’m forcing myself to appreciate this ironically by just laughing at every detail I notice! Am I having fun yet?!” Not to police other people’s enjoyment, but shouting out the make of a car four times isn’t quite the punchline everyone else in the audience wants.
Regardless, that group of people simply got annoying fast, but that’s only my own personal viewing. Dangerous Men is an exceptional experience. You can’t force it. Just slam some beers and let it clumsily wash over you like a tidal wave of lumpy Jell-o.
Was It Worth Watching?
You kind of have to see it to believe it. The production value and acting is bad, but not of tangibly obvious Birdemic or Plan 9 from Outer Space proportions. The WTF moments are plenty, but nothing is as readily a slam dunk of cognitive dissonance as what is provided in Troll 2 or The Room. There’s something more cerebral here, and I’m looking forward to really picking it apart again someday. It may not connect on first viewing. It didn’t for me. However, I was immediately aware that there are fertile points of interest sitting there in the film.
All images courtesy of Drafthouse Films