Alien Nation (1988)


Alien Nation is a 1988 American science fiction film directed by Graham Baker and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Richard Kobritz and Bill Borden. The storyline was based on a screenplay written by Rockne S. O'Bannon. It stars James Caan, Mandy Patinkin, Terence Stamp, and Kevyn Major Howard. The film depicts the integration of aliens settling in Los Angeles, much to the dismay of the local population. Released in 1988, the motion picture takes place in 1991. The film's plot is a buddy cop theme, with some detours into science fiction. The filmmakers also introduced some sociological ideas, such as the effects of illegal immigration, discrimination and racism; as the aliens try to interact and fit in with human society. The aliens have enlarged spotty craniums, two hearts, can consume only raw food and are sensitive to seawater which acts like an acid on their skin. Over the course of the film, their slavery past is alluded as they are genetically modified for slave labor. Alien Nation premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on October 7, 1988, grossing $25,216,243 in domestic ticket receipts. The film earned an additional $6,938,804 in business through international release to make a combined $32,155,047 gross revenue. The film was met with mixed reviews before its initial screening in cinemas, and was considered a moderate financial success after its theatrical run. The popularity of the film's concept spawned a television series in 1989, and five television movie sequels during the 1990s, in an attempt to continue the character development surrounding the fictional alien culture.


The year is 1991, three years since a giant ship bearing 300,000 aliens, the Newcomers, have landed in the Mojave Desert. Los Angeles becomes their new home. Some newcomers take or are assigned names such as Harley Davidson and Humphrey Bogart. However, the aliens are a discriminated race. They are referred to as 'Slag' , or the area in ghettos which they reside is known as 'Slagtown' . Matthew Sykes (James Caan) is a Los Angeles police detective who loses his partner Bill Tuggle (Roger Aaron Brown) in a shoot-out. The detectives were trying to stop two Newcomers from murdering another alien named Cecil Porter (Regis Parton), during what appeared to be a robbery at the mini-mart where he worked. The next day, Sykes' superior Captain Warner (Francis X. McCarthy), announces that someone will have to work with a newly promoted Newcomer named Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). He also states that if nobody volunteers, someone will be chosen. Although bigotted towards the Newcomers, Sykes volunteers to work with Francisco during an investigation into a similar homicide of Newcomer Warren Hubely. Sykes believes the crimes are related and it will give him an opportunity to investigate his partner's death, which he is officially ordered not to. Meanwhile, Warner assigns the robbery murder case to detectives Fedorchuk (Peter Jason) and Alterez (Tony Perez). As the pair work the Hubely-homicide case, Sykes discovers similarities between their investigation and the Porter robbery. Sykes and Francisco do not initially bond (Sykes preferring to call him "George"), and it doesn't help that in the language of the Newcomers, sai'ksss (Sykes) means "shit head." Sykes requisitions a .454 Casull revolver to handle the prospect of dealing with the hardened Newcomer physiology. While at the crime lab, Francisco detects an abnormality on one of the Newcomer criminals killed in the robbery, but asks a Newcomer assistant to check up for something in particular, but does not reveal what to Sykes. Following an interview with Newcomer Trent Porter (Brian Thompson), the son of the Newcomer victim in the mini-mart robbery, Sykes and Francisco check out a nightclub called Encounters to investigate a link in the homicides. They want to talk to a Newcomer named Joshua Strader (Jeff Kober). However, they end up interviewing his girlfriend Cassandra (Leslie Bevis) instead, after he is murdered by a criminal ring led by Newcomer businessman William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) and his henchman Rudyard Kipling (Kevyn Major Howard). Cassandra attempts to seduce Sykes, who is at odds with the concept of a sexually-appealing Newcomer and retreats to Cassandra's amusement. Sykes and Francisco retire to Syke's home, and the two find themselves getting intoxicated (Sykes on alcohol, Francisco on spoiled milk) and Sykes reveal how much he loves and misses his estranged daughter. Francisco confesses he finds humans strange but inspiring for their desires to aspire to high ideals even in the face of repeated failures to do so. Sykes suggest he not try to understand humans, noting their inability to understand each other. The next morning, someone tries to plant a bomb in the detectives' car and is interrupted by the hungover Francisco, who spent the night in the car. The bomber runs off and Francisco groggily takes the detached bomb into the house, handing it to the startled Sykes and explaining what he saw. The two of them return to the medical examiner, where Francisco talks to the assistant, not liking what he hears but keeping it to himself. Sykes, who is not happy with being kept in the dark, confronts Francisco in the elevator, demanding an explanation. Francisco reveals an unsettling secret--his species kept their slaves in line with a powerful drug they called Jabroka. It was given as rewards for those who worked harder than others, and the drug made them work harder still; he confesses that for the slaves, it was their only avenue for pleasure, even as it killed them. The astounded Sykes asked why no one ever found out; Francisco explained that no one wanted to take ANY risk of not being accepted on Earth...or being exploited if humanity ever learned of the drug's existence. They resolve to look for the place where the drug was being developed, and realize a processing plant where many Newcomers worked (due to their ability to breathe methane) is the only place it could be processed. The two detectives head to the plant, and push their way into the plant at the behest of the foreman. Inside a supposedly methane-filled room, they discover the Jabroka drug lab. As Sykes watches the foreman, Francisco approaches the lab equipment with something like dawning horror, then destroys the equipment in an uncharacteristic display of unrestrained fury. He confronts the foreman, lifting him off the ground and demanding to know where the completed product is located. Sykes wisely refrains from restraining Francisco, but does ask the foreman to come clean, saying he watched Francisco brutalize a fictional crook. They find out the drug has been taken to Encounters for a major drug deal. The Newcomers Hubley, Porter and Strader were involved in planning the operation, but were later murdered by Harcourt so he could keep the profits. Ultimately, Sykes and Francisco track Harcourt to the Encounters club, where he is negotiating a release timetable for his potent narcotic. While Sykes is willing to call for backup, Francisco takes the car and goes after Harcourt himself, unwilling to make the existence of Jabroka known to the world. At the meeting, as Harcourt's buyers discover the potential of the drug, Francisco bursts in with the detached car bomb in one hand, and threatens to blow them up unless they hand over the drugs, demonstrating a willingness to destroy them all if the drug never gets a chance to make his people slaves again. Kipling and Harcourt escape with the drugs after Harcourt goads Cassandra into reacting, and the two detectives pursue them in a car chase through downtown Los Angeles. They have a head-on collision with Francisco being injured and Kipling killed. Sykes still chasing Harcourt on foot (Francisco being momentarily stunned), corners him on a desolate bridge. Harcourt then overdoses on a sample of the drug he was trying to distribute. Sykes mistakenly believes Harcourt died from the overdose, but when he tells a cop about the overdose, Francisco reacts suddenly. As the body is taken away in an ambulance, it mutates into a larger, muscular Newcomer with a violent streak. Francisco and Sykes go after the ambulance after Francisco reveals that an overdose does not kill, but changes the body chemistry, making them powerful and violent. They find the ambulance and the dead EMTs, and Sykes catches up with Harcourt again. After wounding him, he leads Harcourt onto the deck of a fishing trawler. The pair end up in a fight on the boat, and they both go into the water. Harcourt thrashes in the water as his body begins to disintegrate, but drags Sykes down. Francisco commandeers a police helicopter, and rescues Sykes from the water by reaching down into the water to pull him up even as the water eats away at his flesh. The two wounded cops look at each other as the pilot asks what that was. Sykes responds, calling it just another ugly "slag," and Francisco realizes Sykes will keep the secret. With both murder cases solved, the authorities dismantle Harcourt's drug empire. The recovering detectives, now permanent partners, attend the wedding of Sykes' daughter, with whom he has mended with and acts as her best man. Before he gives her away, he apologizes to Francisco for all the terrible things he knows he will say about him. Francisco accepts it good-naturedly, telling Sykes, "After are only human." Sykes, in a voice-over, admits Francisco is a good partner "except when he's got that sour-milk smell on his breath."