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Peacemaker (1990) Review

Frequently dismissed as a low-budget knockoff of the Dolph Lundgren film Dark Angel AKA I Come in Peace, Peacemaker was, according to writer/director Kevin Tenney (Witchboard, Night of the Demons) written much earlier but failed to sell due to similarities to The Terminator. I have trouble believing companies wouldn’t want a good script to cash in on that franchise’s success. I can however believe that further delays were caused by its similarities to The Hidden, which was considerably less successful.

Our story begins with a spacecraft crashing into the ocean off the California coast. At the same time, in an apartment across town, Yates (Robert Forster, Grave Intentions, Night Vision) wakes up and looks at the very large gun on his nightstand.

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He’s not the only one looking for big guns, Townsend (Lance Edwards, A Woman, Her Men, and Her Futon, Wayne’s World 2), the pilot of the spacecraft, is trying to steal a shotgun from a police car while the driver is in a donut shop. This sets off a chase and series of fights that pits him against cops and criminals alike, before he ends up in the morgue with twenty or so bullet wounds. Wounds that mysteriously heal, allowing him to escape with the coroner, Dori (Hilary Shepard, Radioactive Dreams, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), as a hostage.

Tenny certainly gets Peacemaker off to an action-filled start, Townsend and Dori don’t even get out of the parking ramp before there’s a confrontation with Yates. One that ends with him being thrown from a car, off the top floor, and down several stories to the ground. Where he gets up and walks away.

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He also keeps that pace going through much of Peacemaker’s hundred-minute run time. The film rarely goes for more than ten or fifteen minutes without a fight, chase, shootout, or some sort of action scene. The aliens’ near indestructibility, they can only be killed by destroying their brain, allows them to repeatedly take damage that would kill humans and come back for more.

Their repeated encounters are given an added edge by each claiming to be the good guy and trying to shift Dori’s loyalty. Townshend claims to be a cop. Or as they’re called on his planet, a peacemaker, and Yates is a serial killer. Yates claims that he’s the peacemaker watching over a galactic witness protection program, and Townsend is a hitman sent to kill one of them. Tenney does a good job of keeping her and the viewer guessing who’s telling the truth up until the final act.

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Serving as the fall guys for much of the film’s violence is the LAPD, led by Sergeant Ramos (Robert Davi, Action Jackson, Die Hard). Ramos tends to take this all a bit personally, as he’s been trying to get into Dori’s pants despite her expressed lack of interest in dating a cop.

And that action is the real star of Peacemaker. Cars and people go flying in all directions, in one of the more memorable moments a speeding pickup goes airborne as it crests a hill and flies over someone. And this was all done with cars and stuntmen, with no CGI crashes or explosions. The same with the messy gunshot wounds, no CGI blood spray here. A scene where one of the aliens regenerates itself may have been early computer effects, or Evil Dead level stop-motion, it’s hard to tell.

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All of this is served up with a generous helping of one-liners, tough-guy dialogue, and even a rather restrained human/alien sex scene. The only thing that stops Peacemaker from being one of the best of the old-school DTV action films is the fact it actually had a brief theatrical release. It hit theatres on May 14th and was on VHS by July 2nd.

Despite all of that, Peacemaker seems to have not just been forgotten, but to have dropped off the face of the Earth. It’s not available on any streaming service that I could find, and the only DVDs are VHS transfers available from various websites. Even the domestic trailers seem to have vanished. I used a subtitled Spanish trailer, the only other I could find was dubbed into German.

Peacemaker is a film that deserves to be given a properly restored release. You can contact Vinegar Syndrome here, and suggest it. While you’re waiting for it to become available, FilmTagger can suggest something similar to hold you over.

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