I Come In Peace (1990) | Sci-Fi Saturdays

by Jovial Jay

Come for the aliens, stay for the non-stop explosions!

I Come In Peace sounds like the butt of a joke, but it’s actually a relatively well executed (if not a little tongue-in-cheek) action film that utilizes sci-fi elements to drive home the horrors of drug abuse. It’s a fun film for a great Saturday afternoon filled with action, explosions and quippy puns.

First Impressions

It’s a Christmas action thriller! Dolph Lundgren is a cop that doesn’t play by the rules. He’s tracking down interstellar drug dealers that are killing people all around Houston. If this trailer didn’t show every explosion from the film in its short two and a half minutes, I’d be surprised! The alien claims to come in peace, but Lundgren’s character reminds him that he goes in pieces! It’s cheesy sci-fi action from the 90s this week on Sci-Fi Saturdays!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Sci-Fi Saturdays

I Come In Peace

I Come In Peace title card.

The Fiction of The Film

In contemporary Houston, Texas, an alien crash lands into a man’s car at a Christmas tree lot. The gigantic blond alien (Matthias Hues), listed as Bad Alien in the credits, stands menacingly over the motorist and exclaims, “I come in peace.” Across town, a couple men break into an FBI storage facility, steal a bundle of heroin and drive off, bombing the lobby in the process. Meanwhile, Detective Jack Cain (Dolph Lundgren) is on a stakeout while his partner Ray Turner (Alex Morris) is instigating a drug buy with Victor Manning (Sherman Howard), the leader of the White Boys, a criminal enterprise made up of young, white stockbroker-looking men. Manning kills Turner and takes the money while Jack is busy stopping a liquor store robbery next door.

When the rest of the cops arrive, the drugs are missing and several henchmen are dead from razor-thin slashes on their throats. Captain Malone (Jim Haynie) pulls Jack from the case and tells him to take an extended vacation. Inspector Switzer (David Ackroyd) of the FBI shows up and has Jack put back on the case with a new partner Agent Larry Smith (Brian Benben), a by the book officer. Across town, another alien (Jay Bilas, credited as Good Alien) crashes into a building, surprising a homeless woman. Jack does not like to follow procedure and after meeting with his informant, Boner (Michael J. Pollard), who tells him that some “martians” stole the drugs, Jack’s instinct leads him to a new clue.

Jack and Smith find a small metallic disc lodged in a speaker at the club where the drug buy was happening. Smith prefers to follow procedure and chafes at this off the cuff way of running a case. Elsewhere the Bad Alien kills several people at different times, injecting them with the stolen heroin, letting them overdose, and then using a giant spike to siphon the endorphins out of their head. Jack and Smith visit Bruce (Mark Lowenthal), Jack’s friend who is a scientist for information on the disc. It’s nothing from this world he tells them. They then visit with the coroner, Diane (Betsy Brantley), who has an on again/off again relationship with Jack. She tells them of the mysterious deaths and overdoses.

I Come In Peace

Set during Christmas, as most good action films are, the outside the box cop is partnered with his opposite in a relationship of mistrust and passive aggressive behavior.

Jack receives a threat from the White Boys, so he proceeds to confront them directly at their office building. Busting into the boardroom Jack pulls his gun on Warren (Sam Anderson), the second in command, but is captured and forced to a drug drop for the gang. The buyer takes the heroin and skips out the back of the shop but is soon killed by the Bad Alien, whom Jack sees for the first time. The Good Alien, a law enforcement officer of his planet, confronts the Bad one in a shootout at a convenience store, and the FBI cordons off the entire scene. They won’t even let Diane in. Inspector Switzer, whom Jack does not trust, convinces Captain Malone to take Jack off the case, as he’s getting close to the truth. The Good Alien, who is injured, asks Jack to help him stop the other alien. Jack makes a promise, and then the good alien dies by exploding in a ball of light.

Smith has the alien gun, believing he has proof of extraterrestrial life, and will hand it over to his superiors. Jack believes Smith is too idealistic and naive, and ends up being correct when Switzer pulls a gun on Smith. Jack kills Switzer, telling Smith they need to finish their case. During a chase with the Bad Alien, it drops the drug it has been harvesting, called Barcy. The chase continues in a car, as they drive through a Mall, and back into the streets. Using the alien gun, Smith blows up the car used by the Bad Alien, but he just walks out of the explosion.

Jack, Smith and now Diane hide out in an old refinery using the Barcy as bait to draw the Bad Alien in. They plan to use the alien gun on the Bad Alien ending his killing spree, sure that if he leaves Earth with the drug that more of his kind will return. But just as the alien is in the sights, the gun runs out of ammo. Smith is knocked out and Jack runs from the tall and strong alien. Jack beckons the alien towards him, destroying a vial of Barcy every few moments. Somehow, he convinces the alien to throw its gun away and fight by hand, but it tries to use the barbed line to inject drugs on Jack. He manages to avoid being stabbed, and forces the alien back onto a ragged metal pipe, killing it. Jack, Smith and Diane walk away in celebration, planning to head to Rio and go after Manning personally.

What are you gonna do? Tell him we’re fighting drug dealers from outta space?” – Agent Smith

I Come In Peace

Agent Smith slices his finger on the alien disc which has just killed four men.

History in the Making

I Come in Peace, also known as–and shot under the name of–Dark Angel, is the first sci-fi film for Dolph Lundgren, known at this time for his role as Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Lundgren would end up committing to several other harder sci-fi films later in his career (including Johnny Mnemonic and the Universal Soldier series), but his first outing was more an action film that was sci-fi adjacent. Known mainly for his buff body, and his action oriented roles (often as Russians), many might have seen this actor in the same vein as Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Lundgren’s previous three films, Masters of the Universe, Red Scorpion, and The Punisher all had him portraying men of few words and explosive action in lower budget action films. Interestingly, I Come In Peace doesn’t feel like as poor a film. Other than some of the characters’ quips, which was a staple of the action genre at the time, Lundgren performs admirably with the script he’s been given.

The film was directed by Craig R. Baxley, who had worked as a stunt performer for two decades on some 40+ films before turning to directing with 1988s Action Jackson. Dark Angel was his second action film and was followed by the Brian Bosworth vehicle, Stone Cold. Baxley’s penchant for stunts and action is on fine display with car chases, gun fights and plenty of explosions. There’s no particular style to the filming, other than the creation of standard action film, for the time. The screenplay by Jonathan Tydor & David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Zathura, and writing under an alias) crafted that typical action film while adding a small sci-fi element to spice it up. Like Predator, which took a military mission and dropped an alien hunter into the mix, I Come In Peace mirrored Jack Caine’s hunt for drug runners with those of an alien officer with a similar mission. In fact the premise of why the Bad Alien was killing humans was an exceedingly similar premise to the 1982 art house film Liquid Sky.

I Come In Peace

The alien guns fire a re-donkulous amount of bullets per second, leading to a metric ton of explosions throughout the film.


The sci-fi elements of I Come in Peace deal with two aliens, one a drug runner and the other an officer, that end up coming to Earth and involving humans in their dispute. The Bad Alien (who interestingly has blond hair, while the Good Alien has black hair–a switch on the Good Guys wear white theme) steals loads of heroin from the local Houston drug dealers and uses it to overdose citizens, harvesting their endorphins as a drug known as Barcy. This is a very similar plot to Liquid Sky in which a slightly more benign alien visits New York City to collect endorphins from humans during sexual climax (and then killing them). This plot coincides with the more human drug running elements where the White Boys and their indiscriminate killing of innocents in support of their drug trade.

In fact, the film plays more as a typical action film of the era. It is possibly even too spot-on with the various tropes of the late 80s/90s police action film. One of these elements is the cop that doesn’t care for the rules, but is actually a good cop. Lundren’s Detective always keeps his promises, but also looks out for the locals, even when working another high profile case. Another element is the cop getting partnered with someone they don’t like. With films like 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon, this was another common trope, along with the Captain yelling at the officer about his attitude. The drug runners were also despicable people, flaunting their disregard of the law and even going so far as to force the good cop to do bad things. I Come In Peace checks all these boxes, including the witticisms said by the protagonist when they take down the bad guy (thanks Arnold).

I Come In Peace

Agent Smith and Jack are brought before the White Boys and forced to participate in their illegal activities.

Societal Commentary

The obvious point that the film tries to hammer home is that drug use is bad. But not only for those using drugs. Other people get injured or killed as they come in contact with these drug dealers. A number of civilians and police get killed when the White Boys bomb the FBI depot to cover their escape. Some other civilians are injured during the car chase later in the film. And then the people that are (supposedly) non-drug users being attacked and killed by the alien end up as further collateral damage. Caine’s mission in this film is to stop the source of these killings by stopping the people in charge, first Victor Manning, and then later the alien. While it would have been fun to see an additional coda where Jack (and presumably Smith) travel to Rio to take care of Manning, by the end of the film audiences should at least understand that Jack will accomplish this task. His word is his bond, as he’s made the explicit promise to stop the man poisoning his city.

I Come In Peace also has something to say about the blind allegiance of people serving in law enforcement. While Jack may stray further over the line with his disregard for certain rights, Agent Smith is on the opposite side of the line. He might be considered a suck up to some, and ends up laying directly into the hands of those in charge. Released several years before The X-Files debuted on TV, I Come In Peace shows the FBI acknowledging and even covering up the existence of aliens. They may even be turning a blind eye to the damage being done, in hopes that they will be able to retrieve technology from these beings from outer space. Technology like the alien gun, and the disc-like weapon.

I Come In Peace

Jack and Smith take down the bad alien with his own weapon. Too bad he doesn’t stay down.

The Science in The Fiction

The film presents an interesting element to alien arsenals seen on-screen with the  flying disc used by the Bad Alien. Looking very much like a thin Compact Disc, this weapon can be attuned to the vibrational frequency of human bodies and sent flying around a room, banking off walls and other objects. It only seems to be stopped by magnets; the object was found lodged in a stereo speaker at the White Boys den. According to Bruce, this razor sharp weapon seeks out the smallest amount of electrical charge in humans, and once released doesn’t seem to stop. It is reminiscent of the larger disc weapons used by the aliens in Predator 2 (1990), but even more deadly. Luckily Jack suspected that the Bad Alien would use a similar weapon on him in the final showdown, since he took the speaker from his car radio into the building with him.

I Come In Peace

The Bad Alien’s height was enhanced (a bit) to make him seem even more imposing over Dolph Lundgren’s 6ft 5in frame.

The Final Frontier

I Come in Peace is not as bad as one might suspect. It’s not trying to be something out of the ordinary, but telling a relatively simple and possibly predictable action story that has science-fiction elements thrown into it. Brian Benben provides a humorous counterpoint to Dolph Lundgren’s imposing Detective, but both get their share of action moments. The romance plot feels tacked on, with nothing more than hints of the relationship between Jack and Diane (yes, like the John Mellancamp song). And sci-fi fans will probably want more elements with the aliens and their technology, but sadly that was not part of the film. I Come In Peace served as a passable action/sci-fi mashup during a time when there was a small dip between big budget sci-fi releases.

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Robot Jox

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