Dangerously Close

| February 24, 2015

When you see the list of musicians whose songs appear in Albert Pyun’s Dangerously Close (1986), you might think, if you know nothing about it as I did going in, that this movie’s going to be all kinds of 80s-style fun. After all, you’ve got the likes of Robert Palmer, Fine Young Cannibals, The Smithereens and Van Halen there. And hell, Albert Pyun directed the picture! You know, the man who produced such cinematic joys as The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), Cyborg (1989), Dollman (1991), Brain Smasher… A Love Story (1993), and of course, the 1990, Matt Salinger-starring adaptation of Captain America?! The thing is, Dangerously Close is hardly a good time.

This isn’t a knock against the film, mind you, simply a declaration of fact. If I’m sitting down to a Pyun picture I’ve never seen before, personally I guess I’ve come to expect that I’m about to have a hell of a lot of fun. And with the promise of a super-80s soundtrack plastered all across the back of the case for the brand new Olive Films Blu-ray release, how could I not expect that of Dangerously Close?! Especially when you’re talking about a Golan-Globus production no less! Honestly, that a Pyun/Cannon Group picture was coming to Blu-ray from Olive Films at all probably should have tempered my expectations in that regard, though. This is not to say that Olive doesn’t put out fun movies, just that Pyun’s audience tends to be of a more cult-y persuasion than they seem to cater to.

Yes sir, Dangerously Close is deadly serious, but it’s truly a tone befitting a film that so brazenly attacks the fundamental notions of bureaucracy. It does this through the parable of a high school student body terrorized by a gang of school board-appointed thugs. The Sentinels, as they’re called, are a group of students chosen by the school board specifically to police their peers’ activities after a magnet program brings a handful of lower class students into their otherwise affluent community. The problem is that The Sentinels aren’t in fact here to help… entirely. Someone among their lot has taken it upon himself to do away with at least one of these undesirables permanently.

The film sits tonally somewhere between other 80s high school, action-thrillers Class of 1984 (1982) and Tuff Turf (1985), two of my favorites. Yet narratively the film didn’t sit well with me upon first viewing as it starts by telling the story of Danny, a young man who’s seemingly tempted by the power that joining The Sentinels could offer him. That story’s quickly derailed though as The Sentinels basically make no secret of their corruption, and it becomes abundantly clear that the disappearance of Danny’s best friend, the Mohawk-sporting “Kroog Warrior,” likely has everything to do with The Sentinels’ dispersion of justice. Revisiting the film a second time, I find myself obsessed with its pacing and movements, which are perfectly, thematically geared toward making one’s prospective inclusion in any bureaucratic order appear wholly undesirable, even at a superficial level. In this, the film asks: what could be more unappealing than the inequality such systems foster?

Now, I’m a guy who owns copies of more than a dozen films by Albert Pyun from his debut with Sword and the Sorcerer to Ticker (2001), and someone who’s also found occasion to teach Pyun’s Captain America at university-level a handful of times. I say this not to brag, but in the hopes that what I’m about to write will carry some weight: Dangerously Close is one of the single most consistent and fully realized pictures I’ve encountered from Pyun’s oeuvre. This isn’t the man’s fault, of course. After all, it wasn’t he, but the studio, who decided to cut the 10 or so most poignant minutes of footage he’d filmed from Captain America. And that certainly wasn’t the only film Pyun’s had taken away from him in post-production either. No matter what happened in post- here, though, Dangerously Close just feels right somehow. Maybe it’s not as action-packed or as fun as you might think going into the experience, but it’s one hell of a taut and bleak little thriller that moves at its own pace. And I respect that.

Olive Films’ release of Dangerously Close is a momentous one as they’re not only debuting it on Blu-ray on Feb. 24, 2015, but on DVD for the first time ever as well. As such, I’ve obviously no previous release of the film to compare it to. However, the transfer is beautiful, clean, bright and crisp—in other words, everything I’m looking for. It appears on the Olive release with only the theatrical trailer by way of special features, but honestly what more do you need when a film speaks so well for itself as this?

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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