Take "Lethal Weapon" and make one of the two cops an alien, and you begin to get an idea of what "Alien Nation" is like. Still, although it's not always a terribly original picture, the main performances are generally enjoyable, if the dialogue and story ideas aren't always up to the potential of the storyline. The film takes place in 1991, three years after an alien race called the Newcomers has landed on Earth and integrated themselves into society. Smart, strong and reliable, the newcomers do face anger from humans who think they will soon be out of a job.
The film stars James Caan as a police detective who loses his partner early on in a grocery store robbery by one of the Newcomers. He gets paired up with a Newcomer partner(Mandy Patinkin) and both set out to investigate and begin to find a cover-up that could mean trouble for both.
The film's attempt at adding sci-fi is pretty much surface details. Instead, the film remains a police thriller - one that's livened by good performances, though. There's a lot of generic "police" lines of dialogue throughout the movie, but if any actor could make these lines sound serious and unlaughable, its James Caan. As his Newcomer partner, Mandy Patinkin also does a fine job. The only one that really doesn't succeed is Terrence Stamp as the movie's villian - Stamp is a fantastic actor, but the role is weakly written and its obvious from the begining that he's the bad guy.
VIDEO: Although there's some problems now and then, titles like "Alien Nation" and "Grand Canyon" show that Fox is really giving their catalog titles excellent treatment. "Alien Nation" is given a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer and it looks suprisingly good for its 13 year age, almost like a new movie. Sharpness and detail are often great, and the picture looks crisp and well-defined.
There's only a little bit of pixelation to take away from the otherwise very good picture. Some light grain and a couple of minor print flaws appear, but none of the flaws really distracted me at all. Colors appeared rather natural and low-key, with few brighter, bolder moments. Overall, a Fox presentation that exceeded my expectations and looks great.
SOUND: "Alien Nation" is presented in Dolby Digital 4.1 and for its age, the film is really quite impressive at times, although it's not up to speed of more modern action pictures. Still, the mono surround track is often very active - sometimes even a bit more active than I'd like, but I did find often find it entertaining.
Where activity was pleasing for a film of this age, the sound quality was occasionally a little bit lacking. Some of the sound effects sounded a tiny bit thin and sharp, but this wasn't a consistent problem. Dialogue also wasn't quite as smooth and natural as some more modern pictures. Overall though, a pretty entertaining time.
MENUS:: Although menus aren't animated, I did like the stylish graphics that were used as backgrounds.
Trailer: The "Alien Nation" trailer in Dolby 2.0.
Featurette: Just shy of seven minutes in length, this featurette is purely promotional, offering some interviews but mainly talking about story details.
Behind-The-Scenes: Not a documentary, but just a series of clips of production footage. More interesting to watch than the featurette, though.
TV Spots: 3 TV Spots.
Fox Flix: Trailers for other Fox titles: The Abyss, Independence Day, Aliens, Enemy Mine and Zardoz.
Positive: "Alien Nation" is a buddy-cop movie that has a bit of sci-fi thrown in. It's nothing too original, but the lead performances by Caan and Patinkin elevate the material. Fox's DVD provides very good audio/video quality, although not a great deal of extras. May make for a fair rental.