Putting the exploding Death Star
at the beginning of your movie
to improve it? Nice try, Mr. Rad.
A minor squall of "so-bad-it's-good" cinema controversy has developed around the decades-in-the-making opus of one John S. Rad (a former Iranian architect whose full surname is Yeghanehrad). As so often happens when a man of low budget and high pretension presents his cinematic vision to the world and is found lacking, the comparisons of John Rad to Ed Wood have begun to fly. Wood isn't around to defend himself, but it should be noted that the notorious auteur made dozens of motion pictures and, however inept those pictures were, he convinced investors, actors, and crew to sink money, time, and effort into them. In the time it took John Rad to finish one movie, Wood made twenty. Rad is a man with some extra cash and a motion picture camera; the late Wood is a legend with "greats" like Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space to his name. Let's keep things in perspective, shall we?
"My heart of gold - it's right here."
That said, Dangerous Men does have some things to recommend it as entertainment, if only in the vein of the unintentionally hilarious. (The picture's wan attempts at purposeful comedy fall flat.) The hilarity begins with the opening credits, which present John Rad's name before the title - five times. His credits include "Director," "Creator and Writer," "Produced By," "Executive Producer," and the composer of the "Original Lyrics and Music." The Dangerous Men title appears with an explosion, a decision we applaud. If you're going to film a bomb, embrace the experience.
Our story begins with two young lovers, Mena and Daniel, who adore each other so much that they can't help but tell one another every five seconds. After a few nauseatingly touching scenes, Daniel ends up dead at the hands of a pair of lusty bikers who attempt to rape Mena on the beach. He manages to kill one of the bikers before he ends up with a knife in the gut.
If there's anything worse than Odious
Comic Relief, it's Naked
Odious Comic Relief.
"You son of a bitch," moans the surviving biker, a manly specimen of bald pate and denim wear. "You killed my only friend!" Mena, following the only rational course of action left, seduces the biker. This highly unlikely sequence of events begins with the words "Hey Tiger," proceeds to a nearby restaurant -- naturally he has to buy her dinner first -- and finally moves to a cheap hotel room. (To his credit, Rad did restrict his use of cheap hotel rooms to scenes actually set in cheap hotel rooms.) To the strains of a Rad-composed song which we can only surmise is titled "Good Bye My Love, Good Bye," Mena stabs her would-be rapist/suitor to death with a purloined steak knife. Before you get that picture too firmly placed in your mind's eye, imagine the scene set with the paunchy biker in his tighty-whities and some full-frontal nudity from Mena. Now imagine where exactly a nude woman hides a steak knife. After that, try to figure out exactly why Mena instructs her lover to rub her knees and kiss her belly-button. Surely Mena could have found a simpler way to get the drop on her victim, but Rad goes the extra mile to make the action especially degrading for everyone involved.
So distraught is Mena by her ordeal that she decides to dedicate herself to ridding the Earth of would-be rapists. "From now on," she bleats into the camera, "All trash like you are gonna end up dead!"
If some guy with a camera made us
wear that swimsuit, we'd try to drown
Luckily for Mena and her new mission in life, the very next man she meets is one of the scum who needs eradicating. In an extended and deeply unfunny "comic" sequence, our hitchhiking heroine catches a ride with a self-described "henpecked husband" who decides that Mena is God's reward to him for being such a schmuck. Mena gets the better of this gent as well, robbing him of his clothes and driving off in his truck. (Apparently death was too good for him.) Because he couldn't think of anything better to do, Rad follows the misfortune of a naked middle-aged man in the wilderness for about ten minutes. Yes, it involves dancing. Apparently death is too good for the audience as well.
Doubly traumatized by recent experiences, Mena breaks down. "I can't believe all this can be true!" she sobs to herself. Then, in one of the most tried and true b-movie plot devices that is also the unlikeliest of actions ever to be taken in the real world, Mena decides to become a prostitute so she can find the men upon whom to take her vengeance.
"This new belly dancer
delivery service is the best!"
From here it's a series of bait-and-kill scenes in which Mena murders every man who tries to take advantage of her. And this being a poor excuse for a movie, every man she meets tries to take advantage. The murders become so routine that Rad actually sets a series of them to a jaunty musical montage, intermingled with flashbacks to Mena's former life. If you manage to attend a screening of this film, try to stay in your seat until this point at least. One such flashback includes a heartfelt scene in which Mena bestows upon her love a kitschy sculpture of two owls made of seashells, complete with plastic googly eyes. It's the kind of thing you wish you could make up, but fortunately John Rad is here to make it up for us.
After a while, one gets the sense that Rad has very strong feelings about sexual assault -- one way or the other. The lingering impression that the director simply enjoyed staging scenes of molestation is one of the many unenjoyable features of Dangerous Men. The fact that the victim repeatedly turns the tables on her attackers feels more like the rationalization for creating the attempted rape segments in the first place. Even the police, when they eventually show up, are compelled to comment on how "fine" they find a half-naked woman in the scene. It's one thing to enjoy a laughably bad movie, but this is one from which you might walk away with a bit of grunge on your psyche.
"You, with the camera - light me
better or I'll shoot!"
Rad's ineptitude really shines, however, when Mena fades from the main action and becomes a secondary player in the story of David, Daniel's detective brother. David investigates the series of murders for which Mena is responsible and eventually confronts a biker kingpin called "Black Pepper." Mr. Pepper (or BP, as we'll call him) is unrelated to the rest of the plot except by dint of heritage (he is apparently the son of the biker Mena killed first -- we think), but his lavish lifestyle affords Rad the chance to insert a belly dancer into his picture. (The belly dancer was apparently unable or unwilling to do anything but gyrate in the movie, so BP and another actress watch her for a few minutes before carrying out the rest of the scene themselves.) Why exactly David invades BP's home or arrests him is a mystery, but we can guess that there was a break in production -- perhaps years long -- and Rad was unable to convince his lead actress to return. By creating a second story and cutting scenes from each together (you'll notice that David never shares screen time with Daniel or Mena), Rad cobbled together his feature, which ends with a chase scene (on foot) in the hills of California.
To call Dangerous Men epically bad is overstating the case, but there's no doubt that with the build-up the film is receiving it will probably be the worst thing many of its viewers will see. Its sparse acclaim as an instant "cult classic" comes mostly, we suspect, from people who have seen little in the way of '80s action b-cinema, or as the result of wishful thinking from those who have seen too much. Dangerous Men is no better or worse than the typical Andy Sidaris film, with the difference that Sidaris usually cast more (and better looking) women in his films, and convinced them to cast off their clothing more often. The only real novelty to be had in John Rad's movie is the fact that an '80s direct-to-video action flick is being released twenty years after its time. It bears noting, but is hardly worth recommending as anything but a rental -- should the sad day come when it receives distribution on home video.