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Face-Off: I Come in Peace vs. Don't Kill It

One of the most popular characters Dolph Lundgren has ever played was the juiced-up Soviet boxer Ivan Drago in ROCKY IV. That's a role Lundgren reprises in this week's release CREED II, and to celebrate his triumphant return to the ROCKY franchise we're taking a look at a couple genre movies from the actor's filmography. Both of these films are "buddy cop" type movies that pit Lundgren against an otherworldly threat around Christmastime: director Craig R. Baxley's 1990 sci-fi action film I COME IN PEACE, and Mike Mendez's 2016 action horror film DON'T KILL IT. In one, Lundgren fights an alien, and in the other he fights a demon. Which is the better battle? Let's see here...

THREAT LEVEL

This Christmas, something from another world has arrived in Houston, Texas to disrupt the local crime organization's drug-pushing business. A hulking, humanoid alien is running around the city, killing people by pumping them full of stolen heroin and then extracting endorphins from their doped-up brains. Those endorphins are used to create a drug that is apparently popular on this being's home world. So not only is this alien going to be destroying lives by peddling drugs on its home world, it's also plotting to wipe out thousands of earthlings to get that drug cheaply. That "I come in peace" line it keeps dropping is B.S.

There's a "dark place", a different plane that exists next to ours, full of demonic spirits that love to find a way to get into our world and wreak havoc. When one demon gets loose in the town of Chicory Creek, Mississippi and starts possessing people to go on murderous rampages, that's enough to ruin Christmas - and if the demon is around too long it could end up wiping out the whole town. But the threat gets bigger than that. If the spirit manages to connect with someone of a certain bloodline, it could find a way to bring thousands of its demon pals into our world at once. That sounds like an apocalyptic event to me.

DOLPH

Lundgren's Detective Jack Caine is your standard irreverent badass cop. It may not seem like he'll be able to accomplish much, as all he seems to do is swagger, smirk, and drop one-liners, and sometimes his boss can't even find him for more than a week, but in the end he gets the job done. And, if necessary (it often is), he can also hit an enemy very, very hard. Caine is a fun character to spend time with, the sort of guy I would hope to see carry a movie like this, and I rank him highly among Lundgren's most charismatic roles.

Lundgren seems like he was having a good time playing Jebediah Woodley, a world-weary demon hunter who has been fighting the forces of evil for as long as he can remember, having been brought into the business by his father. While he tends to be polite, his lifestyle has made him a bit odd as well, and it's amusing to see him interact with average people. A cool, entertaining hero, Woodley is a calm and capable demon fighter, but sometimes it's tough to do his job when everyone around him is so ill-equipped to deal with the situation. 

BUDDY COP ELEMENT

While Caine tries to figure out what's going on in his city he's paired with Larry Smith, an FBI agent who couldn't have a more different approach to the job than him. Stuffy and pretentious, Smith does everything by the book, doesn't let his emotions get involved, and finds it hard to believe there could be an alien in Houston. He gradually comes to realize that he's in over his head. Smith could have been a very annoying character, but actor Brian Benben makes him likeable and entertaining even when he's a pain in the ass, and it helps that Caine never lets Smith's griping get to him too much.

Kristina Klebe plays Evelyn Pierce, a sensible FBI agent who grew up in Chicory Creek but left the town under bad circumstances years ago. Now she's back to solve the murder spree that's claiming the lives of residents, and she seeks Woodley's help when she realizes he might know what's going on here. He's used to working alone, though, so he can be a tough guy to get along with. When it comes to dealing with demons, Pierce gets outshined by Woodley, but she's a decent character with a bit of mystery to her, and she helps keep things grounded when there's insanity going on around her.

MASS MURDER

The most memorable weapon in the alien villain's arsenal is a magnetic disc fired from a device on its wrist. The disc bounces around a room, cutting through flesh, slashing throats, and cutting into walls. The alien also pumps heroin into people through a tube injected into their chest and extracts endorphins from their brains with a spike. We see it do that multiple times. When the time comes for a gunfight, it busts out a powerful automatic weapon that fires explosive rounds. The alien racks up a decent body count, and it's easy to believe it could manage to wipe out thousands of people if it really wants to.

A whole lot of people die in this movie. The body-hopping demon turns the people it possesses into black-eyed, shrieking maniacs who will use any weapon at hand to kill anyone who crosses their path. Guns, power tools, kitchen knives, vehicles, they're all put to use to make a bloody mess of victims. When the body the demon is inhabiting is killed, the spirit jumps over to the person that killed it and continues its rampage in that new body. Anyone who "kills it" becomes it. The opening kills are unnerving as hell, showing friends, neighbors, and family members turning on each other, and there's a spectacular massacre near the end.

CONFRONTATIONS

A good alien doesn't have much luck trying to stop the alien criminal, so it's up to Caine and Smith to bring its reign of terror to an end. They have multiple encounters with the alien in the last 20 minutes of the film, including shootouts (somewhat hindered by their lack of knowledge about its gun), a car chase, and a final confrontation in the classic action movie setting of some kind of abandoned industrial area. As you would hope, Dolph Lundgren does get a chance to land some punches and kicks on this giant, otherworldly creature before dispatching it with the perfect one-liner.

A person battling this demon should very careful, but most are not careful in the confrontations and end up getting possessed themselves. Woodley goes into battle with it armed with things like a net gun and rubber bullets, then gets thwarted by other people getting in his way and doing something stupid. If you want to see him kick the demon's ass in the end, you'll be disappointed, as not even Dolph Lundgren is strong enough to stand up to this thing in a physical confrontation. To beat it, demon hunters have to outsmart it... and usually have to sacrifice themselves in the process.

I COME IN PEACE

DON'T KILL IT is a great recent addition to Lundgren's résumé and the film put up a respectable fight, but it's tough to compete with a classic that has been around for almost 30 years. While DON'T KILL IT is an enjoyable bloodbath, I COME IN PEACE takes the win by having slightly more entertaining characters and much bigger and better confrontations with the villain - something it was able to achieve by having a larger budget than its competition in this Face-Off. I like both of these movies, but I like I COME IN PEACE more, and have liked it for a lot longer.

Do you agree with this outcome, or do you think DON'T KILL IT surpasses the older film? Share your thoughts on both of these movies by leaving a comment below. If you would like to send in suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].

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