Alien Nation
James Caan, Mandy Patinkin, Terence Stamp
Directed by Graham Barker
20th Century Fox 1988
96 minutes

Alien Nation is a great science fiction, cop, and buddy movie all rolled into one. In the near future, well, 1991, a flying saucer arrives in Los Angeles carrying a race of aliens earthlings call Newcomers or less politely Slags. These Newcomers are a slave race bred for work in the mines and their ship got lost and landed on earth. Some three years later they have integrated into day-to-day society. James Caan is a hard-nosed detective who loses his long-time partner during a hold-up by some Newcomers. He teams up with Newcomer Sam Francisco (played by Mandy Patinkin), or, as he calls him, George, to solve the murder of his partner.

In Alien Nation, like in all cop buddy movies, Sykes (James Caan) and George have a hard time adapting to each other especially since Sykes is bigoted and hard headed. Patinkin is great as George, the Newcomer rookie detective, and his take on how humans have so much potential they fail to live up to is but one of the not particularly subtle but not hammered into your skull messages of the movie. The detectives soon learn there is a relationship between the murder of Sykes’ partner and the murder of three or four Newcomers. They investigate that link and discover the big shot Newcomer, William Harcourt, is really an alien drug dealer who is producing the drug that kept the slaves happy and hard working.

There are a lot of things you can read in Alien Nation as sociological points being made. In the end, what you really care about is this is a great little mystery science fiction DVD with great acting, solid action, solid writing, and a few good jokes here and there. Like all fairly successful movies of its time, Alien Nation was made into a short-lived television series.

There is some willing suspension of disbelief needed to go along with Alien Nation such as Rambo 6 playing in a second-run theatre or how the only soft drink advertised in the future is Pepsi Cola. There is also a glaring continuity mistake in the final car chase when the cars taking the exit side by side switch places when they leave the exit.

The print 20th Century Fox transferred to DVD is not pristine so watching this science fiction mystery DVD is not better than watching a VHS version.

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