The French came up with a little thing called the auteur theory. The gist is that the director is the singular voice in the creation of a film, greater to its identity than the actors, writer, cinematographer, or any other element. While I don’t entirely buy into that idea, there are some filmmakers whose instantly identifiable stamp defines the movies they work on. Stanley Kubrick is a classic example, as is Francois Truffaut, or Steven Spielberg. There is no mistaking their work. Nowhere is the auteur theory more evident, however, than with John S. Rad. He may not have been the most famous of directors. He may not have been as skilled, knowledgeable, or comprehensible as the great ones. Or the mediocre ones. However, John S. Rad had an unrelenting passion that could not be duplicated. His unique style is written all over DANGEROUS MEN, his action masterpiece of the ‘80s—and ‘90s, just as clearly as his name. Which is also written all over the movie.
Daniel (Michael Hurt) and Mina (Melody Wiggins) find their blissful engagement cut brutally short when they are attacked by a couple of bikers on the beach. Daniel kills one of the bikers, but the other stabs Daniel to death in front of Mina. Thirsty for revenge, Mina lures the murderous biker into an unnecessarily long and drawn out ruse which (eventually) leaves him dead on a hotel room floor. From that moment on she dedicates herself to ridding the world of other trash like him, no matter the cost. Soon the streets of L.A. begin filling with the bodies of would-be rapists, sleazy johns, and random dudes waiting in line for a hot dog. Her noble pursuit eventually attracts the attention of the police, including her fiancee's brother, David (Michael Gradilone), who is hot on her trail. Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins, probably), the roughest biker in town, might also be involved in some vaguely defined way. Mina finds out the hard way that no matter how many she murders, she just cannot get away from dangerous men.
Right from the beginning, DANGEROUS MEN is a treasure. It has some of the most entertaining opening credits of any movie. Not the opening credit sequence, which is just a shot of waves crashing on a beach, but the credits themselves. First of all, there is an exploding title, which is always a sign of a quality action film. Secondly, every single credit is the same name: John Rad. Writer, Director, Producer, Executive Producer (which I assumed would be redundant if you are the only producer), Editor, Music & Lyrics, all John Rad. He was a man of many talents, though not many of them actually relate to filmmaking. Still, any man named John S. Rad was destined to direct action movies. And yes, he totally made it up, because he was really an Iranian architect named Jahangir Salehi.
Filmed over a period of 20 plus years, DANGEROUS MEN borrows elements from many classic action films, chops them to pieces, and mutates them into something unlike anything else. The closest comparison would be to fellow Iranian director Amir Shervan’s SAMURAI COP, but without that film’s lucid plot or authentic performances. Rad exemplifies that magical case when a director has no experience or even a basic understanding of how movies are made (in America, at least), but fills in the gaps with pure enthusiasm and a total lack of self-reflection. The result can be a beautiful, unpredictable disaster that can’t help but to astonish. That is certainly the case here.
This movie has it all. Dialogue that sounds like it was recorded through cheap walkie talkies, fight choreography in the style of two 10 year-olds playing in the backyard, and characters who almost seem like human beings. Oh, and I hope you like Casio demo loops with goofy light rock guitar flourishes, because you will be hearing it A LOT.
Rad, who was also the casting director, assembled a band of actors whose credits mostly start and end with this movie. It’s hard to identify everyone, even on IMDB, because aside from Mina and Daniel, none of the characters are listed by name in the credits, just by role description (Biker, Hotel Manager, Mina’s Dad). Even the lead characters like David, whose name is said over and over in the dialogue, is only listed as Police Detective. Just consider it part of the charm.
As incredibly entertaining as the parade of technical goofs are, it is the plot that makes this such a brain melting joyride. I’m fairly sure the screenplay was just a transcript of Steven Seagal’s dream journal. The movie starts with perpetually off duty cop David having a poorly dubbed romantic dinner with his wife (who we never see again) before switching to a non sequitur convenience store robbery. Because all action movies must contain at least one foiled convenience store robbery.
Then David disappears for a while and the movie is all about Daniel and Mina, as they go from one romantic montage to the next. We get to see Daniel ask Mina’s dad, who appears to be the exact same age as his daughter, for her hand in marriage. Now its nothing but long drives up the coast. Everything is coming up aces for these two.
Obviously that can’t last. While holding hands on a beach, the happy couple is descended upon by a couple of bikers up to no good (as all action movie bikers are). A fight ensues, and Daniel strangles the one wearing ear flaps and Confederate soldier pants, only to be stabbed to death by the bald biker right in front of Mina.
Things become a little strange at this point, as Mina enacts her incredibly drawn out, overly complicated revenge. She fools baldy, who had moments ago been trying to rape her, into believing that stabbing her fiancée was a real turn on for her. Then she lures him to a motel, were they have a pleasant dinner at the restaurant, allowing Mina to pull a Marion Ravenwood and swipe a steak knife. Back in the hotel room, Mina takes a quick shower while baldy gets in the mood by licking Daniel’s blood off his knife. Finally, after hours of setup, Mina distracts Baldy with some very specific foreplay (“gently rub my knees and lick my bellybutton”), pulls the steak knife from between her buttocks (no, seriously), and goes psycho on his tighty-white ass. Having a taste for retribution, she vows to rid the world of trash like him, and sets off on a dangerous man-hunt.
It might be an extreme reaction, but her low opinion of men is immediately confirmed when the very next dude she encounters, the middle aged businessman who gives her a ride, decides to use the opportunity to rape her. This doof, listed as Truck Driver in the credits but more accurately described as Inconsistently British Fake John Cleese, gets as far as undressing before Mina has a knife to his dick. She steals his truck and leaves him stranded naked in the desert. Now, in any normal movie, that would be the last we saw of him. But thanks to the mad genius of John Rad, we ignore Mina and follow this bumbling nitwit through the desert FOR FIVE FULL MINUTES. He covers his naughty bits with branches, argues with himself, gets made fun of by passing motorists, and does an impromptu fan dance to “The Blue Danube”. It sort of defies description. And just as I was hoping the movie would become a ‘60s sex farce revolving around this sad sack, he is gone.
Meanwhile, Mina interviews a prostitute to learn the secrets of attracting horny men, such as making eye contact and, well, that’s really all she needs. Eager johns follow her back to her apartment where she just as eagerly murders them. But throughout all the wanton bloodshed, she still has flashback montages of her life with Daniel, like the time she gave him a googly-eyed shell sculpture which she insists was handmade and not bought at any cheap beach souvenir shop. Eventually all of the john stabbing and would-be rapist shooting (this movie is like an after school PSA against hitchhiking) gets the attention of the cops, who scour the city looking for her with ‘70s stock footage of police cars and helicopters. She eludes the dragnet until an undercover cop, whose badge just reads “Policeman Police”, arrests her while she casually walks around the city in broad daylight. Thus ends—somewhat anticlimactically—the story of Mina.
Except that the movie has another half hour left to go, so now it becomes all about David. He is still determined to track down his brother’s killer, even though everyone knows his killer is dead and the person who killed his killer has been arrested. Undeterred, he goes on a hunt for Black Pepper, reportedly the most badass biker of them all and not a stripper like his name would imply. The first step is to nab Black Pepper’s friend, Dutch (credited as Head Biker). Dutch is also bald, but can be distinguished from the previous bald biker due to his prominent forehead tattoo (or decal). David lays a trap for him using his new friend Darts Playing Woman, as bait, which is a scummy thing to do given that he just saved her from Head Biker in the last scene. Seriously, the title of this movie should be RAPEY MEN, though thankfully none of the many, many rapists are ever successful and they are all either arrested, humiliated, or killed.
Ironically, the most dangerous of the dangerous men, Black Pepper, turns out to be a fairly decent fellow, despite looking like the lead singer of a Winger cover band. He’s introduced making out on the couch with his girlfriend while a belly dancer shakes and shimmies around the living room (at this point in the movie, that doesn’t even count as weird). Then he compliments the dancer on her routine and makes tender love to his girl, focusing on her needs first, if you know what I mean. He doesn’t have any visible connection to crime and doesn’t seem to even be aware of what happened in the beginning of the film. So it’s a little confusing when the entire police force raids his house. He does have a bunch of armed guards, but even though he tells them to do whatever it takes to keep the cops from getting in, they all surrender without firing a shot. At least his sassy girlfriend stalls the cops long enough for BP to escape.
The big fist fight between David and BP is all you could hope for and more. Hilariously, Rad uses the exact same punch and grunt sound effects over and over, no matter who is swinging. Punch, ow, punch, ow, punch, ow! It’s like a live recreation of playing Double Dragon in the arcade. In a turn that is both surprising and completely justified, BP wins the fight, leaving David unconscious but alive on the desert ground.
Trust me, I’ve only touched on a fraction of what this movie has to offer. Every minute has some bit of delicious ineptitude. Regrettably, John Rad did not have another 26 years left to make another film. Who knows what other wonders he could have given the world. At least we will always have this one. I think the credits say it all with its lone Special Thanks dedication... to John Rad.