John Rad’s Dangerous Men is an experience of cinematic bewilderment, a narrative that begins upbeat by the seaside and ends in great frozen disorder, as if any consideration of viewer had been cast willingly to the wayside, the film mutated into something other, which makes this film unlike any I’ve ever seen. It moves as it does with violent joy and otherworldly sincerity.
After her fiancee is murdered by a duo of psychopathic bikers, a young woman, Mina, embarks on her own psychopathic rampage of murdering every man she comes in contact with, collapsing her world to meet, greet and murder. Eventually, David, her fiancee’s brother (and a police officer, of course) closes in on her trail or so we are led to believe. But instead of apprehending her, David goes on the hunt for a dangerous blonde drug dealer named “Black Pepper,” who ends up killing David before being caught by a veteran cop (I think that’s who he is). And that’s where the movie ends–not at a still point, no resolution. In fact, it’s as if the end is not really the end. We are left incomplete. And if we stuck with this simple synopsis, we would lose the chance to speak of this film not in terms of its disjointed play, but in terms of its refusal to bend to any genre expectations: a pleasant disco-groove tune plays over a brutal assault, bikers drink beer in a family-style restaurant, necks are slowly broken, men run naked in the desert, deceptions are played out for too long to the extent that they become their own sub-plots, sex scenes last a little too long, bellybuttons are kissed, knees are rubbed, all to ends that don’t meet viewer expectations, because we’ve never seen something like this. The whole experience is otherworldly.
I don’t think Rad, the director, cared about viewer expectations or if he did he sure didn’t care about playing to narrative conventions. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like he’s interested in subverting conventions, either, at least not consciously. The film is not ironic. I’d like to think that he became entangled in the labyrinth of his own sense of cinematic causality, but unfortunately his entanglement led to the complete obliteration of any kind of proper “Hollywood” formula. This, though, instead of destroying the film, works in its favor, completely. It’s as if all the years it took him to complete the film affected the chemicals of its insanity, much like a sculptor who can’t stop carving into the material, until all that’s left is an abstract representation of the desired object.
Earlier I mentioned that there is a joy in this film and it’s that joy that burns through every single (singular) moment of the film. Even in the face of the most atrocious assault, Rad somehow circumvents normality through the lens of choice available, while still playing the film off as something compelling to a wide audience. If this is normalcy, then Rad is, simply stated, an inhuman director, for in presenting an action/thriller to us that transcends every precious turn we take for granted (and expect in a thriller), we enter into the alien-other–exposed to the fact that we are watching a movie that is so aware that it is a movie that it passes beyond the realm of irony and enters into the unknown of cinematic oblivion. That’s “dangerous.”
Black Pepper, eluding the police force who have invaded his hilltop mansion, casually dashes across the lawn, mere feet from authorities. He circles back through his yard and the chase continues. He is always so close and his movement so slow, the entire scene becomes a cartoon version of a chase. Not to mention that David, the police officer protagonist, and, other than Mina, the killer, our nearest hope to a main character, is shot and killed with no further explanation. The meaning of his death in terms of the film is left unstated. However, something odd happens, because we realize we never really cared for him anyway, possibly were not meant to. We end up not caring for any character in the film, which, furthermore, plays into the idea that John Rad has made an anti-human piece of art, something so alien to any emotion or cinematic experience we might be used to, it ends up becoming an artifact, a journey into the dangerous unknown, a journey to a place where humans die meaninglessly and without explanation, where stories fragment, split apart, and ooze into new stories. This, friends, is quite the experience.