Review: Dangerous Men

Mina (Melody Wiggins) is the main character in the film Dangerous Men. After her boyfriend is murdered, she embarks on a killing spree to kill as many bad men as she can. (Drafthouse Films)

Mina (Melody Wiggins) is the main character in the film Dangerous Men. After her boyfriend is murdered, she embarks on a killing spree to kill as many bad men as she can. (Drafthouse Films)

 

I’ve already written one blog post about the film Dangerous Men quoting some online articles and reviews. Now that I’ve seen a screener, I can give my own opinion.

While watching all by myself I burst out laughing on several occasions, but this is definitely a film to watch with a large group. I can imagine Dangerous Men going over really well in Fantasia’s longtime venue, the Hall Theatre of Concordia. I hope it works just as well at Cinéma du Parc.

So, what makes Dangerous Men funny, ridiculous or strange? Where to start? The script makes no sense, there’s bad dialogue, badly delivered, and several levels of bad acting on display. People talk to dead bodies; they also have long, rambling conversations with themselves. About eighty per cent of the male characters have moustaches, but the film was begun back in the day of detective show Magnum P.I. after all. (Google it if that doesn’t ring a bell.) There’s a living room bellydance performance when you’d least expect it. And just wait for the closeup view of a police badge, or the newscast set that looks like it was made from cardboard and duct tape.

The opening minutes of the film manage to be boring and puzzling at the same time. Scenes keep switching back and forth between two couples declaring their love for each other. Who are they and why should we care? It’s not clear if these “events,” such as they are, are happening at the same time, or if we are just switching between the two couples for the sake of variety.

In one night-time scene, a man in a black suit approaches a house. (Was it the filmmaker’s home? Woudn’t be surprised.) We just see this guy from the knees down, or from the back; the lighting is so strange that his shadow often looks like a second man. The way he’s filmed we assume he’s up to no good.

Later, when he is outside smoking (near his home, far from his home, who knows?) he interrupts the armed robbery of a liquour store. This is a way of letting us know that he’s a cop. I guess.

Before he interrupts that robbery, we see a woman, safe behind some shelves, and invisible to the two robbers, watch them pull a gun on the cashier and collect money. I thought she was a customer, but no, she was the store owner. As the robbers are about to leave, she confronts one of them with a yell, grabs his bag of loot and tries some laughably ineffective martial-arts moves on him. What kind of idiot would do that? Seriously? There will be lots more illogical behaviour before we’re through. The owner gets shot and falls down in a very unconvincing, theatrical way.

Turns out that the cop is named Dave. The other man is Daniel, his brother. Daniel and Mina tell Mina’s father that they want to get engaged. Mina’s father doesn’t look old enough to be her father – a big brother, maybe. Mostly, we see dad in profile or from the back, as if the actor didn’t really want to show his face.

The next day, Daniel and Mina hit the road. (Everything seems to be taking place in California, but Daniel and Mina have a car with New York state plates. I don’t know why.) They have a run-in with some thuggish bikers on a beach and Daniel ends up dead. Mina vows to get revenge on all the bad men in this world. (That would be most of them.) She embarks upon a killing spree. Many of the murders are presented in a visual shorthand – we see Mina’s shadow on a wrinkled sheet as she stabs the shadow of her anonymous victim. Saves money on actors and fake blood!

At one point Mina takes a train somewhere. . .I think. Well, we’re shown a train, which made me think she rode it. Then again, maybe it was just passing by and I filled in the blanks, incorrectly? Mina travels without luggage or even a handbag, yet she magically has several changes of clothes. She even has an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt like the one Jennifer Beale wore in Flashdance (1983). Not to mention, where does she stash her eyeshadsow, lipstick, mascara, teasing comb, etc?

After Daniel’s body is found, brother Dave tries to find the killer, even though his boss tells him he’s too close to the case to do that. Of course, Dave ignores his boss, doesn’t everybody? Dave seems mildly curious about the fact that Mina is missing, but not as worried as one might expect, since they had almost become in-laws and he had told his brother that he liked Mina very much. In that conversation, he mentions “wedding arrangements” and says arrangements in such a strange way, it sounds like English is not his first language. The director should have asked for another take!

Most of the things I describe above happened in the first few minutes, there are lots more ridiculous things to come. Fight scenes were clumsily absurd. During some of them I swear I heard someone saying “Whack, whack,” every time a fist connected with a body.

The music was funny for a few minutes and then became very annoying, verging on excruciating. The same riffs would be repeated for several minutes even when the mood of a scene had changed radically.

Neutral observation: The handguns in Dangerous Men are relatively small. If the film were made today, I imagine that they would be much larger and look scarier.

Watching Dangerous Men has made me appreciate the scripts, actors, sound tracks, continuity, etc. of mainstream movies much more, even the ones that are far from perfect.

Dangerous Men is (unintentionally) funny, but I did feel a bit sad about it, too. It was the passion project of John S. Rad (real name: Jahangir Salehi Yeganehrad) an Iranian who fled Iran for the U.S. in 1979, five days after the Shah left Iran himself. Supposedly, Rad made between three and 11 films in Iran, and he was also personal cameraman to the Shah. After Watching Dangerous men I have very serious doubts about that, but maybe no one watched his Iranian films, either. Or maybe they were shorts. Maybe he shot very short scenes for the Shah, too, and someone else edited them.

One review I read says that Dangerous Men looks like a film made by someone who had never seen one before, and I have to agree! Yet, Rad spent more than 20 years writing, shooting editing, etc. What did he learn in that time? I also wonder if he neglected his family and friends while devoting so much time to this project? He was a bit cavalier with the posssessions of others, too. A car that gets pushed down a steep hillside had belonged to his daughter; she only found out what happened to it when she watched the film.

I’m one of those people who feels obliged to read the credits. What’s in them? Mina (Melody Wiggins) and her boyfriend Daniel (Kelay Miller) are identified as Mina and Daniel. But Dave, Daniel’s brother, is just “Police Detective.” The actor is named Michael Gradilone but Michael is mispelled as Micheal. A character named Black Pepper in the film is simply “Head of Drug Dealers” in the credits. One “biker” was played by Gorge Derby. Is that a real name, or George mispelled?? I know Jorge is a name. Another actor is just “Terry,” and a camera operator is just “Felix.” I wouldn’t have wanted to give my full name, either.

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Dangerous Men, written, directed, edited, produced (etc.) by John S. Rad
In English, 80 minutes long.
Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, at 9:15 p.m. at Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Ave du Parc

 

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