'Dangerous Men' Is the Funniest and Worst Movie You'll See This Year
The magnum opus of outsider filmmaker John S. Rad wants to be a grim thriller. Instead, it's a bizarre and hilarious testament to the difficulties of creating art.
If Dangerous Men were a competently made film, it would be nightmarish and grim. There are half a dozen attempted rapes during its 80-minute runtime, and pretty much all of the male characters who aren't cops are ready to sexually assault vulnerable women at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, literally every woman who appears onscreen is defined by her sexuality, whether she's a prostitute, rape victim, or biker girlfriend—the only exceptions are a convenience store owner who gets shot by robbers a few minutes into the movie and a female cop who has no lines. Despite all that, it's probably possible to read Dangerous Men as feminist, since one of the main characters is a woman who spends her time stabbing, shooting, and threatening to cut the penises off of men.
But trying to ascribe meaning or a message to Dangerous Men is like talking about whether a bowl of soup supports civil rights—this is not a remotely competent film, and its real subject is its own failure. People who will seek it out it will watch it for the same reason people gawk at memes of poorly designed objects. It's fun and even sort of cathartic to mock someone else's mistakes, and not necessarily mean-spirited. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that we're all fallible and we all fuck up, even when we try our best.
And oh man, did the auteur behind Dangerous Men try his best. It took him a reported 26 years to put the film together, and he didn't have much help: IMDB lists him as the film's writer, director, producer, music composer, editor, production designer, and set decorator. He went by John S. Rad, though he was born Jahangir Salehi Yeganehrad. Not much else is known about him. He once told an LA Weekly writer that he was a millionaire architect and filmmaker in his native Iran before fleeing the 1979 revolution and that he had written thousands of songs and poems and made a pair of English-language films called Under the Skin of Night and Tough and Restless. (He is listed as a writer for Under the Skin of Night , which was directed by Iranian filmmaker Fereydun Gole.) Dangerous Men came out in 2005 in a few LA-area theaters and was noticed only by a few film fanatics. Rad died in 2007, so he never got a chance to see Drafthouse Films give his magnum opus a wide release this week.
I don't know how Rad would feel about his movie being embraced for its sloppy amateurishness, but that's the only reason to see it. Its schlocky no-budget lineage goes back to Ed Wood, but it probably most closely resemble's Tommy Wiseau's The Room in that it putters around aimlessly and pretty much plotlessly while dropping a few bizarre non sequiturs on its audience, who are hopefully high or drunk enough to find them funny. It's a movie meant to be talked back to and mocked by groups of trash connoisseurs.
It's probably even worse on a technical level than The Room. The dialogue is mindless and badly recorded; there's also a curious number of exchanges about renting a car or ordering drinks or dinner. (One scene centers around the heroine picking up her debit card from her dad.) The characters' motivations are unclear and so is the expected audience reaction—things just sorta happen, and then we move on. At one point, a police detective is called up by his girlfriend, who complains that she's on vacation and he should come have sex with her. Then he goes to her place and they have sex. This is not connected to anything else in the movie.
Other bizarre moments include an extremely long sequence where a biker gang leader and his girlfriend watch a belly dancer, then go have sex; a scene where a blind woman with a gun (!) attempts to kill a home invader; and a moment when our man-killing heroine pushes a car down a hill, where it explodes for no reason. My personal highlight concerns a Englishman who vaguely resembles a poor man's John Cleese getting stranded naked in the wilds of California after an attempted rape (of course) goes awry. He wanders through the bushes cursing himself, trying to figure out how he'll explain his situation to his wife, and insulting his penis for getting him into trouble. That's the only time we see him.
You can call Dangerous Men a bad movie, and you should, because it is, but how could a movie be entirely bad when it includes moments like this?
As those shots show, this is a movie with a lot of nudity mixed in with the violence. All of it is slapdash and vaguely pathetic, but you can see the outlines of an actual film here, a B-movie wrapped up in themes of violence, revenge, justice, and the horrible things men are capable of doing to women. Instead, what we get is kind of a vague impression of a film, a imitation of an idea placed in Rad's head by countless hours of action movies and cop thrillers. Dangerous Men obviously wants to be dangerous, but it can't quite get there. Instead, it's something more interesting, a piece of outsider art that's more about the attempt to make a movie than anything else. You can't watch it without thinking about what it's doing wrong, and that experience of seeing the film fall apart into utter incoherence quickly becomes more entertaining than anything onscreen.
In one of his only interviews, Rad described watching the movie in theaters in 2005 and being mystified by the audience's laughing at scenes that he never intended to be funny. But he sounds happy that his film got a response of any sort, that his movie is appreciated for its singular nature, if nothing else.
"I create differently," he told the LA Weekly. "If it is bad, it's a bad different. If it's good, it's a good different."
Dangerous Men is out today from Drafthouse Films. Find out where it's playing here.
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