Alien Nation

Title:  Alien Nation
Director:  Graham Baker
Date:  1988
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Genre:  SF / Police Drama
Actors:  James Caan, Mandy Patinkin
Format:  Color, Widescreen
DVD Format:  NTSC, R1

The 1980s saw a lot of unusual cop buddy movies – “Alien Nation” takes that idea and gives it an Science Fiction twist – with a human cop working with an alien cop to solve his own partner’s murder.  (They actually start on another case together, but, it is, of course, linked to the partner’s death).  However, halfway through the film the plot turns away from an very interesting social commentary to a search for an alien super-narcotic that looks like Era detergent.  This isn’t a case of effects no longer working because of age of the film — it looked like Era when the film was made.  And there’s even a line where a human tastes the drug and says – “It tastes like detergent.”

Overall, Alien Nation, is one of several movies I could name where the TV show was much better.  Made a year after the movie – the television series re-cast the leads, expanded the characters of George’s family, and even introduced a potential Newcomer girlfriend for Matt.  It also focused on social issues (such as an alien/Newcomer voting rights bill) as well as contemporary police stories.

However, the movie isn’t all that bad — it’s a great idea, that works better in a series format than a movie.  And I actually really liked Mandy Patinkin’s “Sam Francisco” (quickly re-named “George” by Matt).  And, the movie hits hard in telling a story about racism before the drug storyline takes over.  Plus, there’s a killer scene at the end that’s wonderful.  I enjoyed the film when I saw it, enjoyed the TV series even more, and got a copy of the movie on DVD for free when I bought the TV Series from Amazon (or was it Deep Discount — whatever).  Anyway, the movie still works as a cop drama, it doesn’t look that dated.

Recommendations:  See it, but buy the TV series.
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  All That Jazz

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