Back in 2005, Dangerous Men had an extremely limited release -- the writer/director/composer/costume designer/etc. John S. Rad spent thousands of dollars to rent out four theaters in Los Angeles for a week to show his film, and its take was a whopping $70. It's not a coincidence. It's not simply a result of having almost no marketing (an ad even ran for it during Fear Factor). It's just a bad movie, evident in every trailer I've seen for it.
The very first character we meet inadvertently sets the tone for the entire movie. His credited name is "Police Detective." Yes, that's his credited character name. No one ever says it, but no one addresses him by name either. Just kind of glossed over that. Odd for a primary character. He is played by Micheal Gradilone according to the in-movie credits, though on the Blu-ray box and on IMDB, his name is spelled the more common "Michael." If you're getting a sense that there wasn't much attention to detail or quality, you're right, but we're just getting started. "PD" comes home to jump the bones of "Wife" (Roya Saghafy) -- seriously, that's her credited, unspoken name -- and...well, that's about it.
Next, we disconnectedly jump to Daniel (Kelay Miller) getting engaged to Mina (Melody Wiggins). Mina is credited as "Mina" and her name is spoken as "Mina," but IMDB lists her as "Mira." I'm going to side with the movie in this case, but given how much they got wrong with the first character, I have to double check. A man of tradition, Daniel seeks the approval of "Mina's Father" (again, that's his credited name), played by James Brockman, a man who looks about the same age as Daniel, making it hard to take him seriously. The terrible acting makes it even harder to take anyone seriously.
During a private celebration of their engagement, Daniel is killed by a random biker, and Mina sets out on a crusade to kill every man she deems too vile to live. So it's sort of like The Brave One that way, if that movie had been written by kindergartners. The dialogue throughout is painfully cheesy, the fight choreography cringe-worthy, and the soundtrack -- oh, that soundtrack. Rad just played and recorded a bunch of music, then looped it throughout the entire movie, regardless of the situation. Literally 80 out of 80 minutes have music playing, whether it's appropriate or not, and changes tone whenever it feels like it, not corresponding to tonal changes in the storyline.
About halfway through, we lose track of Mina and the story jumps back to "Police Detective" (bear in mind that about four different cast members are credited as "Police Detective"). We find out that "PD" is the cop brother of Mina's dead fiance, now trying to figure out where she is, despite the fact that her father has seen her and helped finance her killing spree. "PD" discovers the identities of the biker assailants, then starts chasing that loose end. "Bartender" (yep) tells him that the son of one of the bikers is a man called Black Pepper (Bryan Jenkins), and proceeds to plan a raid on BP's house in the hills.
The original assailants are dead, and BP had nothing to do with that incident, yet they're about to raid his house and arrest him for...what, exactly? I'm assuming writer/director Rad felt that was a detail no one would bother mulling over. On with the "action"!
Cue more seemingly unrehearsed, badly improvised fight choreography, rubber handguns that don't actually fire or recoil or have muzzle flash or anything, and an on-foot chase between BP and the Chief that takes entirely too long for how little happens during it. The Chief ends up cornering and apprehending BP, and roll credits. No closure or updates on Mina's story or whereabouts, nor do they even have a real reason to arrest Black Pepper except for being related to a guy who was present during an attempted rape/murder but didn't actually commit those crimes either. So Black Pepper is the son of a guy who was friends with a guy who committed a crime. He wasn't there. He had nothing to do with it. But this is our conclusion. Take it or leave it, says Rad.
In addition to such heavy hitters as "Police Detective" and "Bartender, we have Biker, Rapist, Truck Driver, Fiance, Police Detective, Police Detective, Police Detective, Police Detective (seriously, four of them), Blind Woman, Head Biker, Belly Dancer, TV Reporter, Waitress, Bartender, and Thief #1. Quite a lineup. Leading man and guy-lucky-enough-to-get-killed-early-in-the-movie Kelay Miller (a.k.a., Michael Hurt) used this movie to cap off a decade-long porn career, having had roles in such gems as Rebel Without a Condom, Buttwoman '97, Mr. Holland's Orgy, Buffy the Vampire Layer, Stiff as a Board, and Butt Sisters Do Washington D.C. Any one of those sounds more entertaining than Dangerous Men.
Both the audio and the video are badly edited, too. Scenes in a restaurant cut the audio in when the characters are actually speaking, bringing with it the background noise, and when they stop, so does the background noise. It's so bad, I thought it had to have been done on purpose. The title sequence is alternating shots of a beach and some rocks by the ocean...the same two scenes, back and forth, all to show John Rad's name for every role -- writer, producer, director, editor, composer, art director, and costume designer, etc.
Every scene goes on anywhere from three to ten times longer than it needs to be to make its point, like a "sex" scene late in the movie that goes on for several minutes and no one ever gets out of their underwear. It somehow manages to be even less sexy than thinking about my parents getting it on. This feels especially out of place since the first half of the movie shows boobs and bush left and right, but felt the need to go all PG-13 later on.
There's this intrigue about the movie being shot over the course of 20 years, from 1979 to the late 1990s. However, in the interview with Rad in the included booklet (that reads like someone interviewing a stoned Borat having a seizure), it sounds like it was all shot in the mid-'90s. Then again, the settings and vehicles and clothing and everything feels mid-'80s, so it's hard to tell. Certainly the characters didn't visibly age during the course of filming, so maybe some generic scenery shots were taken early on before Rad could dupe people into starring in this train wreck.
If nothing else, it got me to research the Adopt-A-Highway program to figure out if it existed when the film was allegedly shot, as it appeared on a sign during a driving montage. It did, and has allowed KKK members, Neo-Nazis, and strip clubs to adopt and clean up stretches of highway, protected by a circuit court decision (the Supreme Court dismissed the case) that these groups volunteerism is protected by the First Amendment, and they could not be banned from doing so. See? This movie is educational, as you'll quickly be willing to read just about anything to avoid having to look at the screen.
It's not even really worthy of being "so bad it's good," though the film has developed a small cult following that will go to see it any time it appears in a theater and laugh their butts off at how atrocious it is. If Rad had meant the film as a joke, or made it intentionally dreadful, he might've been onto something, but everything I've read about him since watching Dangerous Men indicates that this was a serious movie, he thinks it's perfect, and a milestone, a monumental achievement, and doesn't understand why people laugh when they watch it.
One thing it does have going for it is that if you watch it at 1.5x normal speed, it feels a bit like a lost episode of Benny Hill. As much as I didn't like this movie, for this fact alone, that puts it somewhere above the abysmal Mark of the Beast. On the other hand, at least Sharknado managed to have a consistent plot throughout and some adequate resolution at the end, no matter how stupid or poorly made it might have been. So there you have it, somewhere between Sharknado and one of the absolute worst movies I've ever seen.
It's oozing special features though. From the booklet with the Rad interview to the reversible cover insert to the dual-disc case with no hinges or flippy pages, it feels like a quality package. On-disc, we also have audio commentary with Destroy All Movies authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, a documentary about the film and its initial theatrical release, an interview with director of photography Peter Palian, footage of John Rad appearing on local-access television, trailers, and a digital download of the film itself. Biases about the film aside, this is a package bloated with just about anything a fan could ask for, including both DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film. The BD version is higher resolution and cleaned up a bit, but no one was going to work miracles off the original negatives, given the age and quality of the source. Despite all these goodies, the film lacks subtitles, which I thought was an odd omission.
If you like movies that are actually trying, you probably won't like this. If you're looking for something horrendous that parades out caricatures of bad '80s cliches in virtually every scene, a movie that's so bad it's almost good, or you want to watch it with a group of drunk friends and rip it apart, you might want to give Dangerous Men a try. It'd be great for Riff-Trax.