tek's rating:

Alien Nation (R)
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This came out in 1988, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's something I've always wanted to see, though I'm actually more interested in seeing the TV series that was based on the movie. I just thought I should see this first. Anyway... I'm putting my review in the science fiction section, though the sci-fi element seems somewhat incidental. It's more of a buddy cop/action movie, as any website will tell you. (Wikipedia also calls it "neo-noir," which I can kind of see, but not nearly enough for me to call it that, myself.) Some might also call it at least partly a comedy, but I don't. It had a few mildly amusing bits, but most of the things that I think were meant to be funny, weren't. And for the most part, I took the plot seriously, anyway. I guess I liked it well enough, though I'm probably cutting it some slack just because of its potential as science fiction. I mean, it has a decent underlying theme, but that theme has been done much better by things that came after it, such as Defiance and District 9. (But at least this movie is still better than Space Precinct.)

So... it's set in 1991, just three years after the movie was released. It's also three years after an alien ship crashed on Earth. The ship contained an alien race who are referred to as Newcomers (I don't think I ever heard the race's real name in the movie). They're also often referred to, pejoratively, as "slags." The Newcomers are a race bred for slavery, by some other alien race, I guess, that isn't even mentioned in the movie. And we eventually learn that they were given a drug as a reward for hard work (which reminds me of the Jem'Hadar from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). But since arriving on Earth, the 300,000 occupants of the slave ship have been integrated into human society, officially as equals, though they still face some discrimination. (Which I found rather timely, watching it in 2017. Though sadly, it would probably be timely pretty much any year I might have watched it.)

At the start of the movie, we see a couple of cops named Matt Sykes (James Caan) and Bill Tuggle. I'd say they were probably both bigoted against Newcomers, but that's especially true of Sykes. And it seems rather odd to me, since Sykes is white and Tuggle is black, and... I mean, I would assume that dynamic was written into the movie intentionally to highlight the absurdity of racism in general. Like, how can someone who has undoubtedly been discriminated against in his lifetime do the same thing to another race, and how can someone else who is aware of such racism but isn't racist himself... be racist against aliens? I dunno, I don't want to think too hard about it, but I at least had to mention it. Because damn. Anyway, the two of them notice some suspicious Newcomers going into a little store, apparently to rob the place. The owner of the store (also a Newcomer) ends up being killed by the robbers. And soon thereafter, Tuggle is also killed. Sykes chases down the perps, and manages to kill one of them (though the perp was seriously jacked up on a drug). The other perp gets away.

The next day, Sykes goes back to work, and learns that a Newcomer cop named Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) has been promoted to detective, the first of his people to achieve that rank. Sykes volunteers to be his partner, basically so he can use him to pursue his personal goal of tracking down the Newcomer that had gotten away, to avenge his previous partner's death. (I have no idea whether the one Sykes already killed or the one who got away was the one who killed Tuggle, but I suppose that's not terribly important.) Anyway, Sykes refuses to call his new partner "Sam Francisco," so instead he calls him "George." I... suppose I should mention that George has a wife and a young son, though we never really meet them. And Sykes is divorced, and has an adult daughter who's getting married soon, but he doesn't want to go to the wedding. (I'm not sure whether that's just because he doesn't want to see his ex-wife, or because he feels inadequate because he can't afford to pay for the wedding, or what.)

And... I don't want to get into any details of the investigation. It was okay, but probably less interesting than your average cop movie investigation. Or even your average cop show case of the week. The alien angle made it more interesting in theory, rather than in practice. But the halfway decent aspect of the movie was getting to see Sykes slowly get past his bigotry and start to see George as both a real partner and a friend. (And even that's something that's probably been done better in some movies about regular human partners who start out not liking each other.) Nevertheless, it was an okay movie, and I'm glad to have finally seen it.


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