A group of vigilante honor students that call themselves "The Sentinels" take their self-appointed enforcement policies too far when they become involved in a series of deaths among lower-income students at Vista Verde high school. Starring John Stockwell, J. Eddie Peck, Carey Lowell, and Don Michael Paul.
I was looking forward to reviewing ‘Dangerously Close’ as a potentially fun piece of grade-B escapism, filled with the kind of gratuitous sex, graphic violence, and cheesy novelties which only Golan and Globus can offer. Instead, I was “treated” to a morally serious, but dramatically middling piece of fluff which was starts off as a thriller, but ends up becoming some meandering, low-key mystery.
Directed by Albert Pyun, the movie stars the wooden J. Eddie Peck as Donny Lennox, the editor of a high school newspaper who becomes involved with fellow student Randy McDevitt, played with a bit more emotion by John Stockwell, who also co-wrote the screenplay. McDevitt is the leader of a group of local vigilantes called “the Sentinels” made up of young jocks who terrorize suspected troublemakers, such as graffiti artists, minorities, outcasts, and other suspicious types. Judging by the social and economic make-up of the vigilantes versus their victims, Pyun may be trying to make a statement about racial and class differences, but the film isn’t deep enough to go any further than the superficial. (Likewise, there are a couple of scene where father-son conflicts are introduced, but that theme is never developed beyond one or two moments.)
‘Dangerously Close’ opens with four members of the masked Sentinels striking fear into one anonymous victim, who is ultimately killed by an unidentified member. We are then introduced to our “hero” Donny Lennox, the academic editor who also works as your friendly neighborhood pool cleaner. He lives a humble life with his Average Joe father and is good friends with a rebellious and boisterous kid named Krooger Raines (Branford Bankcroft), who drives a souped up car and sports a mohawk of some sort. Hanging around McDevitt and his clique, Lennox finds himself troubled by their violent actions and secret ways. Lennox ends up comforting (but only in the platonic sense) the gang leader’s girlfriend Julie, played by a fresh-faced Carey Lowell, who resembles a young Katie Holmes on the boxcover. Krooger also finds himself victimized by the high school vigilantes and disappears, prompting Donny and Julie to team up and investigate the earlier murder and a possible connection with the Sentinels (who seem to be obsessed with videorecording their terrorist actions long before camera phones). Eventually, the gang confront the two meddling fools and we’re given some moral lessons on taking the law into your own hands, mob mentality, and other high school no-no’s.
I’m more familiar with director Albert Pyun’s reputation than I am of his actual work, although I did see his infamous 'Captain America' on VHS many years ago and was impressed that as a comic book movie, it wasn't nearly as terrible as ‘Supergirl’ or 'Batman and Robin' or even 'Superman IV.' His movies may not be art, but Mr. Pyun seems to have more talent than a Uwe Boll or Roland Emmerich. (As of the date of this review, I still eagerly await the official release of his ‘Streets of Fire’ sequel, ‘Road to Hell’ which has apparently been a work in progress since 2008.)
However, this film disappoints in that it could have been directed by any anonymous hack who might have been less restrained with the exploitative elements. Other than Miss Lowell emerging from a swimming pool, and a sexy blonde in a red dress walking down the sidewalk, there isn’t enough skin to keep male minds entertained even with cuties like DeeDee Pfeiffer (memorable - at least to me - as the Whammy Burger cashier in 'Falling Down') hanging around. While violence is shown on occasion, the blood and guts are limited to some bloody animal carcass draped across a steering wheel, and a few faces being punched out and shot with paint guns. In other words, unless one is really, really fascinated by the characters and dialogue, there isn’t much to enjoy in ‘Dangerously Close.’
Personally, I found more entertainment in nit-picking all of the movie’s other problems, such as continuity errors (a bright, sun-lit indoor scene is matched jarringly with a cloudy and sunset red outdoor scene when a character look through a window), spelling mistakes (a newspaper headline decries “vigilanties” [sic]), and production flub-ups (dialogue is heard even though lips don’t move; fight scenes where fists clearly miss their targets by several inches). I also noticed that for such an affluent high school, there appeared to be less than thirty people making up the student body, half of which are staff members of the school paper, and all of whom appear to be over the age of 25. I will say that there is an unexpected twist at the end of the movie which took me by cheap surprise. It’s not something which makes the 95 minute experience worthwhile, but it did save me from falling completely asleep.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Dangerously Close’ is presented on 50 GB Blu-ray disc on standard slipcase. The cover art adapts the design of the original one-sheet poster, which amusingly enough, highlighted the movie’s soundtrack over its actors (“Featuring Robert Palmer’s Grammy Award-Winning Song…”). The main menu is composed of the same static image, allowing viewers to play the movie, access individual chapters, or watch the trailer.
The picture quality of ‘Dangerously Close’ is surprisingly good, with solid details and natural fleshtones. Darker scenes suffer from a general murkiness in color and brightness, but even then, black levels are impressive for a feature with such modest production values. The film’s natural grain structure is obvious, but not obtrusive. A few scenes involving fast motion do exhibit some blocking and pixilation, particularly when a character is being chased in broad daylight in the forest. However, the transfer itself looks generally clean and reveals little print damage or defects. It also struck me that this picture made a better impression on me than another California-based, high school film I recently reviewed called ‘The River’s Edge’ (still a far, far superior film on nearly every level).
Sound is presented in two-channel stereo, with limited separation and even more limited dynamics. The soundtrack does come to life when playing pop music, though it's more FM quality than Dolby Atmos. I did enjoy hearing parts of the soundtrack, including Lone Justice’s (led by Maria Mckee) “Sweet, Sweet Baby” a favorite song of mine which nevertheless is played inappropriately during a nightclub scene. Equally awkward is Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” which is heard during a private conversation between McDevitt and Lennox, and might have subliminally underscored a homo-erotic relationship between villain and hero (though I doubt it). There are times where the dialogue is somewhat unintelligible, and where a separate center channel might have helped clarity. Still, I have to imagine that the DTS-HD Master Audio track has done the best it could with this kind of low-budget production.
With the exception of a theatrical trailer, 'Dangerously Close' is a bare-bones Blu-ray package.
'Dangerously Close' could have been a memorable guilty pleasure, but it instead turns out to be a forgettable waste of time. The few moments of interest that are displayed can't compete with the long stretches of dullness in between. After the movie ended, I wondered how an obscure movie like ‘Dangerously Close’ could even have made it to the Blu-ray format (considering that so many other cult films have not), but given its very competent presentation by Olive Films, I’m grateful that this studio is giving some lesser known films a shot at high definition. I can only recommend this film for Cary Lowell completists or Albert Pyun fanatics.