Face-Off: I Come in Peace vs. Split Second

This week's Face-Off comes at the suggestion of Arrow in the Head reader Phil Mitchell, who sent in an idea that immediately captured my imagination and made me smile, because I'm fan of both of the films he mentioned and watched them both many times back in the day. Phil wants to see a battle of cheesy '90s action/sci-fi/horror flicks, 1990's I COME IN PEACE (a.k.a. DARK ANGEL) vs. 1992's SPLIT SECOND, and we're going to give it to him. What happens when Dolph Lundgren and Rutger Hauer go head to head? Let's find out.
Dolph Lundgren stars as Houston detective Jack Caine, a cop with no regard for the rules, no time for stuff like warrants, and a habit of disappearing without notice. When his partner is killed in a drug bust gone bad, you know he's not going to just let it go and take the vacation his boss wants to force him into. Don't let Caine's irreverent demeanor fool you, though. He's secretly a man with style and taste, as evident from the nicely decorated apartment he probably shouldn't be able to afford.
SPLIT SECOND is set in the future, the year 2008, and working the streets of a London flooded by global warming is Rutger Hauer's detective Harley Stone, who won't even let a suspension disrupt his three year hunt for the serial killer who murdered his partner. Stone lives on anxiety, coffee, and chocolate, has no respect for anybody, and is a bit of a scumbag - he was sleeping with his partner's wife before the guy got killed. He's just the sort of walking disaster you want a rogue cop hero to be.
The drug dealer Caine is after ripped off the FBI, so Caine is joined on the case by FBI agent Larry Smith, played by Brian Benben, an actor I loved watching on the HBO show Dream On when I was too young to be watching that show. Smith does things by the book and is meant to keep Caine in line, but the more things around them become unreasonable, the more of an influence Caine has on the stuffy G-man. Benben is a great comedic presence and Smith is a surprisingly likable character.
In an effort to end this investigation that has stretched on for far too long, Stone is paired with Neil Duncan as serial killer specialist detective Dick Durkin. At first, Durkin seems like he's going to be insufferably stiff, but the more details that are revealed about him (his very active sex life, the fact that he gets ideas from comic books), the more fun he becomes. By the end of the film, Durkin has hilariously entered full "nerd trying to be a badass" mode.
Introduced in the very first scene, the main villain of this film is Matthias Hues as a hulking humanoid alien who goes on a killing spree in Houston. The alien kills several people with magnetized throwing discs, but his primary method of murder is to pump heroin into his victims, spike them in the head, then suck the endorphins from their brain to synthesize his own alien drug. The alien repeatedly says "I come in peace," but he has a very different definition of peace than you and I.
Director Tony Maylam takes his time building up to the reveal of the killer, a monstrous beast that tears people's hearts out. Designed by Stephen Norrington, the killer resembles an ALIEN Xenomorph, but characters theorize that it may be the devil himself. While off screen, the killer taunts Stone with clues and symbols left at crime scenes, but once it's finally revealed it's kind of tough to believe that this creature would do such things. It's just a monster with claws and gnashing teeth.
Directed by stuntman Craig R. Baxley, I COME IN PEACE never goes too long without throwing some kind of action your way. With our heroes, the bad alien, a good alien, and a criminal organization called the White Boys all in the mix, there are a bunch of characters to stir things up in action sequences, and their shenanigans result in explosions, martial arts fights, a car chase, and gunfire from weapons manufactured on Earth and other planets.
SPLIT SECOND really doesn't have all that much in the way of action, instead taking a slow burn approach of building dread and tension. Aside from a rather inexplicable mid-film shootout and a couple bursts of noise and speed, the adrenaline-pumping is largely saved for the ending, when Stone and Durkin wade into the final confrontation with some major firepower.
The story may be mixing some different genres together, but I COME IN PEACE really has no pretensions of being anything other than an '80s/early '90s buddy cop action flick, and it excels at being one of those. This is pure, nostalgic entertainment that provides excitement and laughs from beginning to end.
SPLIT SECOND is trying to be dark, moody, and atmospheric, a successor to ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, a precursor to SEVEN. It never reaches the heights it's aiming for and takes itself a bit too seriously, it could have lightened up and been more fun, but overall it's an enjoyable creature feature.
In this battle of early '90s video store/cable favorites, I COME IN PEACE comes out the victor due to it having a more fun tone and higher entertainment value. I remain a fan of both films, but when it comes down to it, a drug dealing alien is just more interesting than a wannabe Xenomorph.

Are you a fan of either of these films? Do you agree with the results, or do you prefer SPLIT SECOND? Let your thoughts be known by leaving a comment below.

Phil Mitchell got his Face-Off suggestion featured on the site. Want to be like him? You can send your suggestions to me at [email protected].

Thanks for the suggestion, Phil!



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