I have never been a fan of so-bad-it-is-good cinema, in spite of what my wife thinks. I am generally bored by truly bad films. Sure, there are the few terrible gems, but it is rare that they are awful enough to be entertaining without imbibing mood enhancers. The Ed Woods of this world are few and far between. Only once in a great while does a filmmaker of both great passion and great incompetence come along to produce a film that defies classification and transcends such labels as “Good” or “Bad”. John S. Rad (Jahangir Salehi) is one such filmmaker and his 26-year-in-the-making action epic Dangerous Men (2005) is one such film. Rad takes on the roles of producer, writer, director, editor, composer, set decorator, and production designer for what is clearly a passion project. With such love put into the film by its creator, one can feel a bit of guilt being overly critical of the results. Unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your perspective, the result is so god awful that one cannot help but tear it a new one, laughing all the way. The acting in the film is beyond amateurish, the ever present score is mind numbingly atrocious, and the plot leaves the viewer wondering if they had not inadvertently dropped some acid before viewing the film. These elements combine to produce an amazingly terrible film that is perhaps one of the most entertaining disasters in recent memory.
When Dangerous Men opens, the viewers meet Mina (Melody Wiggins) and her fiancé Daniel (Kelay Miller aka Michael Hurt). While spending a romantic afternoon on the beach, the couple is harassed and later attacked by a couple of bikers. Daniel fights off one of the bikers, killing him in the process. The other biker returns the favor by killing Daniel. Mina seduces the surviving biker, convincing him to rent them a room at a local motel. After they have a nice dinner of steak and french fries at a nearby diner, they head back to their motel room. While the biker is licking her navel (no, really) and massaging her knees (don’t ask), Mina gets her revenge by stabbing the biker to death with a shard of broken glass she has stashed in her butt crack. Later, while hitchhiking, Mina is picked up by another man (John Drake) who attempts to rape her. Mina manages to get him out of his truck and out of his clothes, abandoning him in the desert. After getting lessons from a hooker on how to be a “lady of the night”, Mina begins a killing spree while posing as a prostitute. Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother David (Michael Gradilone) is a police detective who is investigating his brother’s murder. His inquiries point to the head of the biker gang, the notorious Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins). At some point, Mina’s story is wrapped up so quickly that it is honestly easy to miss if you are not paying attention. The remainder of the film concerns the pursuit of Black Pepper.
The above synopsis probably gives a false impression; in no way is Dangerous Men even half as coherent as the above would indicate. Dangerous Men is like a mash-up of two 80’s/90’s action films that only touch tangentially. The movie first follows (in a strange and meandering way) Mina’s revenge story. About two-thirds into the film, her portion of the plot is summarily wrapped up. Honestly, it is easy to miss her story’s resolution if you stop paying attention for just 30 seconds. I am speaking from experience, as I only caught that ever-so-brief scene on a subsequent viewing. The focus then switches to David’s investigation of the biker gang and Black Pepper. Somewhere in there (I’m still not sure how or when), David drops out and instead we follow the police chief (Carlos Rivas) for the rest of the film. One gets the distinct feeling that the choppy narrative structure is not the result of some grand artistic and experimental vision, but is instead due to the fact that the movie was filmed over two decades. Interspersed throughout the film are seemingly random scenes, often involving characters we see once or maybe twice. When a British man attempts to rape Mina and she subsequently abandons him naked in the desert, we follow him for several minutes as he berates himself and sings and dances amongst the cati. This comes to nothing in the end. The first time we are introduced to Black Pepper, he is making out with his girlfriend in his home. Out of nowhere, a random belly dancer (Roohi) appears and dances for them. Then, just as quickly as she appears, she is gone. Perhaps she is one of the director’s relatives who wanted to be in the picture; we may never know.
The employment of “friends and family” may also explain the level of acting in the film. The acting in independent films can sometimes be a mixed bag, with actors of varying levels of talent being cast. There is no “mixed bag” for Dangerous Men; the acting is universally execrable. Stilted delivery and general awkwardness in front of the camera are the norm. The only actor who seems to have any significant film experience is Kelay Miller/Michael Hurt (Daniel), and that experience mostly is in porn. As it is ostensibly an “action film”, Dangerous Men has a good number of action sequences that require the actors to practice the physical side of stagecraft as well. They prove that their physical acting skills are on par with their skills with dialogue. During fights, punches are pulled so hard that I am surprised they do not result in pulled muscles. Most of the fights come off looking like they are bad pantomime. When Black Pepper is trying to be stealthy and sneak away from his pursuers, he looks like he is taking his acting queues from Scooby Doo and Shaggy, tiptoeing around after a “ghost”.
One of the many production roles taken on by John S. Rad is composer. His skill with music rivals his other filmmaking skills. As with any film produced during the 1980’s and 1990’s, one has to anticipate some amount of synthesizers and drum machine usage in the score. Dangerous Men embraces the synth sound, though perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. Much of the score consists of very short (5-10 second) synth and drum machine loops that endlessly pound aways at the viewer. When the viewer is not being aurally assaulted by bad synthesizers, they are subjected to bad 80’s/90’s soulful jazz that sounds like an even worse version of Kenny G. Then, there are the occasional pop-style ballads that are injected almost randomly to the film. All of this would not be too unbearable if the score stayed in the background. Alas, the volume of the score is high enough that it demands to be heard, often threatening to drown out the dialogue. It is non-stop, as well; every moment of the film is occupied by the score. The viewer is never given a chance to catch their breath and rest their eardrums.
Is Dangerous Men sincerely bad, or is all of it just a put on? I still find myself asking that question. The overly clichéd score and exaggerated fight scenes almost make it feel like a modern homage to bad 80’s/90’s action films. On the other hand, there is an odd air of sincerity that surrounds the film. Actors age and style change, hinting that it really did take the reported 26 years to make the film and get it aired. Regardless of if you are laughing at or with Dangerous Men, it is a great example of synergy; all of its awful parts come together to make a whole that is far more entertaining than one would have a right to expect. It transcends the traditional rating scale, so I have to rate it according to how much fun it was to watch, and it was a ball.
Dangerous Men (4 / 5)