2005, NR, 80 min. Directed by John Rad. Starring Melody Wiggins, Kelay Miller, Michael Gradilone, Annali Aeristos, Bryan Jenkins.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 13, 2015
In the fall of 2005, a strange movie called Dangerous Men was unleashed on the world. It was four-walled in a few theatres, a practice in which the filmmakers or distributors pay to book their movie into a theatre for a designated length of time – generally the sign of a vanity project or sheer desperation. No one seemed to know anything about the film or the filmmaker, but it made quite an impression on the few who saw it for its outrageous ineptitude and passionate singularity. The film made it to Austin in February 2006 and played a few midnight shows at the Alamo Drafthouse. Here’s what I wrote about it nearly 10 years ago:
“An instant midnight classic, this film by the Iranian émigré Rad entices with deliriously below-par production values that are so awful it’s impossible to ascertain if they are intentional or naive. The story is a Ms. 45 revenge-style tale, but the film’s sensibilities are thoroughly idiosyncratic. Little makes much sense or is narratively cohesive, as characters speak with their backs to the camera or engage in telephone conversations on unplugged-in phones. Rad, who receives most of the film’s creative credits, is the latest auteur to pop out of nowhere, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if this is a good thing or not.” (02/17/2006)
It took a while, but obviously the honchos at Drafthouse Films, the company’s distribution arm, decided Dangerous Men was a good thing, because they have picked up the film for re-release in 2015 since it clearly jibed with their devotion to all things psychotronic and demented. Re-releasing is something the company has done before with such films as Roar and Abel Ferrara’s aforementioned Ms. 45, both from 1981. In the interim since 2005, I have watched the film again and learned a few more things about it. But, no, that still doesn’t render it coherent.
Rad emigrated to the U.S. in 1979 at the time of the Islamic takeover of Iran, though his official bio says he came to this country to shoot his dream project, Dangerous Men. Rad is credited as the film’s writer, director, producer, set designer, music composer, and co-editor. It was filmed in pieces throughout the Eighties, and more work was completed in the Nineties (a calendar in one scene reveals the year to be 1995), which makes it confounding to follow. Different plot lines appear to have been filmed at different points. You follow along and begin to grasp what’s happening, only to have a sudden edit introduce an entirely new group of characters. God forbid, Rad use any establishing shots. The acting is amateurish with no tonal modulation, yet that doesn’t necessarily matter when delivering a juicy line like, “He’s killed more men than the Nam war.” Plus, there are more shots of lardy men in ill-fitting white underpants than in any movie I’ve ever seen (not that that’s a recommendation, but merely an odd observation).
In a couple of interviews conducted with Rad at the time of the 2005 release (he died in 2007), the director, who had a successful career as an architect in Iran, also claims to have made a few films in his homeland. If it’s the case that Dangerous Men, despite being a passion project, is not the filmmaker’s first movie, I feel less inclined toward granting it clemency. This is a bad movie, but one that awakens your senses every so often with flashes of originality and abundant self-belief.