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Movies for Gun Guys: Alien Nation

Overview: Does anyone even remember this Alien Nation? Released in 1988, the plotline is basically that a race of humanoid aliens comes to Earth and eventually integrates with society, primarily in Los Angeles, much to the chagrin of the local population. One of the marooned aliens played by Mandy Patinkin eventually becomes a detective and is partnered up with a reluctant James Caan, whose partner had recently been killed by one of the “newcomer” bad guys. 

What We Like: So, if you’re easily dazzled by car chases, half-baked quips, and carny-trick action-movie essentials, you might actually enjoy Alien Nation. The two stars make it bearable to watch. In the opening sequence, Caan’s partner is killed when a criminal alien manages to pick him off by shooting a mag-fed Benelli loaded with slugs completely through a parked car he’s hiding behind (insert gasp of disbelief here). After killing the assailant, who’s twacked out on some alien drug, Caan subsequently decides to upgrade from his Beretta to something more Dirty Harry-esque. After all, what buddy cop flick would be complete without a dick-measuring gun scene? It’s at this point the guy running the police shooting range introduces him to a Freedom Arms 454 Casull, which according to the movie, has “twice the impact energy of a 44 Magnum hot load.” We’ll leave the debate on that assertion up to someone like John Linebaugh to settle. The scene where he tests it out by shooting through a tac vest is akin to Roy Scheider filling his hollow-points with poison and coating them with candlewax in Jaws 2. In other words, please pour yourself four fingers of suspension of disbelief before pressing “play.” 

Gun Guy Highlights: Oh boy … even though this movie was certainly a product of its time, it’s a guilty pleasure similar to eating your favorite candy bar. It sort of had the ingredients of District 9 meets Lethal Weapon, but unfortunately cliched and predictable story elements prevented Alien Nation from becoming what it could’ve been. Even a few TV movies and one season as its own series weren’t enough to reignite interest in the Alien Nation franchise; however, rumor has it that a remake with Michael Shannon attached to play Patinkin’s character is somewhere in development hell. When watching the scene where Caan finally shoots someone with his new sidearm, your reaction will be along the lines of watching a lawyer mistakenly apply a cat filter to his Zoom call. The on-screen appearance of other guns of that era, like a Micro Uzi and Ruger AC556K, also solidify its place in the pantheon of forgotten ’80s good-guy-versus-bad-guy cinema. 

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Editor's Note: This is a Section of the Article Movies for Gun Guys Published in RECOIL Issue #55.

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