Albert Pyun is best known for directing action and sci-fi pictures like Cyborg with Jean Claude Van Damme but in 1986 he made Dangerously Close, a strange tale of youth gone wild. It's a strange film to be sure, one that seems far more concerned with technique and style than with narrative substance, but it's an interesting film to revisit almost thirty years after it debuted.
The movie is set primarily at a fancy-schmancy private school called Vista Verde where teenage kids attend classes taught by a group of teacher who all seem unusually out of it. Everyone here wants for nothing: they've all got expensive cars and the finest clothes and you can tell that for the most part these kids aren't ever really going to have to ever work a day in their lives. Amongst this group of kids exists The Sentinels. They're sort of the military police unit of the school, put together initially as a way for the student population to take care of their own and to stop the recent rash of vandalism that has been plaguing the school. Of course, it doesn't take long before The Sentinels, led by a guy named Randy McDermott (John Stockwell), start using the power they've been given to get rid of anyone they don't see as conforming to their idea of what is acceptable.
Enter a kid named Donny Lennox (J. Eddie Peck). He's not a rick kid but has landed himself a spot at the school thanks to his knack for writing. He and another student named Krooger Raines (Branford Bancroft), a bit of a punk kid with a bad attitude, become friends because no one else in the school really likes them. They don't fit in. This becomes all too clear when Krooger winds up in a brawl with some of The Sentinels. Shortly after this happens, one of The Sentinels, Brian (Thom Matthews), starts to feel the gang has gone too far. He leaves the gang and then later McDevitt's girlfriend, Julie (Carey Lowell) gets tired of his abuse. These guys form a small crew to stand up to The Sentinels, but what sort of chance have they really got when it seems like even the principal (Madison Mason) is on their side?
Dangerously Close mixes up a lot of similarly themed ‘troubled teens' movies like Heathers, Pump Up The Volume and Suburbia and throws them all into a blender resulting in a mix that tastes… weird. Pyun spends a lot of time focusing on the male characters standing around and looking cool, striking dramatic poses and arguing back and forth when he should be fleshing out the characters better. Because of this the plot falters a fare bit, the movie is very uneven. In fact, when you get right down to it, Dangerously Close is pretty bad. BUT… it's interesting in its own strange way, as many of Albert Pyun's movies tend to be.
Why exactly Pyun chose to set a movie like this in a high class California suburb is puzzling. If the school is plagued by graffiti and petty theft problems shouldn't it look like it? It doesn't. It's well maintained and seemingly quite a nice place. If The Sentinels are supposed to be tough and intimidating, shouldn't they be? They're not. They're a bunch of preppy guys, most of whom look to be in their mid-thirties and well past high school age, trying but failing to convince us that they're threatening. You never once really feel that Krooger couldn't take these guys down. The whole twist in the plot involving who is really behind The Sentinels and why is telegraphed early on in the picture so you won't really have any trouble sorting that out.
And yet this mess of a film is very watchable. Maybe it's Pyun's overuse of a smoke/fog machine in an opening scene where we see The Sentinels doing their dirty deeds. Maybe it's the horrible dialogue in which characters state the obvious over and over again. Maybe it's the eighties soundtrack (it definitely IS the eighties soundtrack, at least in part) and the strange fashions of the movie's skewed version of what ‘punk kids' are supposed to be like? Maybe it's the odd camera angles or Krooger's custom license plate? The fact that Carey Lowell is really pretty doesn't hurt things either and watching John Stockwell act sinister is often times unintentionally amusing. There's really no way to defend this as anything more than really strange style over substance but the fact that it is as dated and misguided as it is will definitely give those who remember the eighties well reason to pause.The Blu-ray:
Olive Films gives Dangerously Close a fine looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. It's a little soft in spots but you definitely see the advantages that HD offers here in both improved detail and texture. Grain is never hard to spot but it's not overpowering or distracting. Some scenes are lit a little better than others and so detail wavers a bit in these spots but that's the way the movie has always looked. Skin tones seem accurate, black levels are good and any print damage that shows up on screen is minor. The movie looks good here. Not reference quality, but good.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track and it sounds just fine. Clarity is good, there's a reasonable amount of depth and range to the mix and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Hiss and distortion are non-issues and both the score and effects have good presence. This isn't a super fancy mix, not by any stretch, but it's an accurate representation of what the original audio should have sounded like.Extras:
Aside from a menu and chapter selection there are no extras on this disc.Final Thoughts:
Dangerously Close does sometimes feel like a strange exercise in style over substance but there's enough to the story, characters and performances to make it all work, if sometimes in spite of itself. Olive's Blu-ray release is short on extras as most of their releases tend to be, but it looks and sounds pretty good. Children of the eighties can consider this one worth seeing for strange, nostalgic reasons. It might be tough to wholeheartedly recommend this as a blind buy though, so let's go with ‘rent it.'