Alien Nation (1988) 80’s Sci-fi Interspecies Conflict In The Buddy Cop Formula

Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin terence stamp

After seeing the trailer to the new Netflix science fiction movie starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton called Bright, the comparisons reminded me so much to the 80’s cult favourite Alien Nation. With that memory sparked I fancied watching that movie again.

I haven’t seen “Bright” yet (looks a bit wack tbh) but can only imagine it follows the trusty, tried and tested formula of dealing with racial tensions by switching it to aliens and humans. It’s been done many times before, with Enemy Mine with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr being an obvious example (actually getting released together as a double bill on DVD). Another example you could say is man and primate in the classic Planet Of The Apes series. On a deeper scale you could say they are all alternative takes on films like The Defiant Ones where the likes of Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis paved the way for these types of racial social commentaries. The good thing all these do have in common is the method of people realising the errors of their bigoted ways and coming to realise their prejudices, producing the good old fashioned buddy movies we all love.

Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin becoming partners copsAlien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin shooting range mega gun target

Alien Nation stars the gruff and moody James Caan, playing the short-tempered police detective sergeant Matthew Sykes. I’m sure you can guess the reason he frustratingly has to work with a new partner, a sweet natured rooky alien detective called Sam “George” Francisco, played by Mandy Patinkin, who people might recognise as CIA Chief Saul Berenson from the series Homeland. Can these two polar opposites ever become friends? We all know the answer to that but it’s fun to find out.

Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin becoming partners cops buddies

Matthew Sykes – “I can’t introduce you as Sam Francisco! I’ll call you George!”
Sam ‘George’ Francisco – “It is like your name… Sykes. I’m sure it doesn’t bother you at all that it sounds like “ss’ai k’ss,” two words in my language which mean “excrement” and “cranium.”…… “Shithead!”

Set in the year 1991, three years after the world had first contact with a giant UFO landing in the Mojave Desert containing over 300 hundred thousand enslaved alien humanoids. Within 3 years the newcomers to Earth have been integrated into human population of Los Angeles. Mixing into various positions of society throughout the city. Crime is as rife as normal but a certain gang of newcomers have started killing each other in what looks like a drug cartel take over. Could this be connected to a powerful new product that has hit the streets?

Alien Nation (1988) William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) Rudyard Kipling (Kevyn Major Howard)Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Matthew Sykes big ass gun

Looking right dodgy from the get go is Newcomer businessman William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) and his henchman Rudyard Kipling (Kevyn Major Howard). This new drug doesn’t affect humans but is proper catnip on steroids to the new residents. Can our two cops come together to crush this drug and murder problem all whilst working each other out?

Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin Sam George Francisco Matthew Sykes bar troubleAlien Nation (1988) James Caan Mandy Patinkin ET PD badge sprayed on cop car

Yeah of course the film is chock full of classic clichés but hey it’s good old fashion science fiction escapism. The movie didn’t do practically well on reviews but managed to spawn a TV series the year after and then a series of five TV movies in the 90’s with the titles Dark Horizon, The Enemy Within, Body and Soul, Millennium and The Udara Legacy. I’m pretty sure I watched most of these on video rental.

Alien Nation (1988) Mandy Patinkin Sam George Francisco sour milk drunk

A few Wolfie Observations

  • You can have a cheap night out with a alien, leave a four pint of milk out in the warm for a few days and you gotta yourself a happy drunk alien. They love their sour milk.
  • Like Back To The Future did to Jaws, spot the little poke at Rambo 6 at the cinema, if they had done Rocky they would of been on the money.
  • Look for all the quirky names the newcomers have been given. From the likes of Rudyard Kipling.
  • Sykes asks his partner if all the lady “plumbing” is in the right place? His partner gives off a knowing smile.

Cassandra – “Tell me the truth. Have you ever… made it with one of us?”
Sykes – “No… unless I got drunk and somebody didn’t tell me.”

Alien Nation (1988) James Caan Matthew Sykes Cassandra Leslie Bevis

I’ve always been a sucker for science fiction so it was great to be inundated with so many Alien Nation spinoffs. Did you watch these back in the day? Let me know if you wish.

Now like the end of the film let’s get The Four Tops to sing us out ——

“We are friends, we are brothers, always there, looking out for each other”

17 thoughts on “Alien Nation (1988) 80’s Sci-fi Interspecies Conflict In The Buddy Cop Formula

  1. I love this film! Love how it tackles the theme of racism, and also how it brings something a bit different to the buddy cop formula. James Caan and Mandy Patinkin are both at the top of their game in this film. The TV series (1989-1990) of this is excellent too. The series should have lasted much longer than it did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Maddy. yeah both the dynamics of both actors styles works well. Hard Caan and soft Patinkin. They both equal each other out. Yes a great twist on the racism in society. Sci-fi and a buddy movie, I hooked 🙂
      I was hit and miss seeing the episodes of the series, but pretty sure I watched all 5 TV movies that came out in the mid 90’s. Remember renting them on VHS along with the X-files TV “movies” (the double, triple episodes). Fun days. Thanks for the great comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Enemy Mine is a better film I think. Very much worth tracking down for a viewing. One I will be revisiting one day for sure. Sci-fi and buddy movie, what more could you want 🙂 Thanks for the nice comments too Mr Bobby


  2. I love this film also I saw it when it came out. Different however I saw Bright yeah it is similar but they put an element in it that works but the critics bashed it. It was not too bad. Nice post. I have to revisit this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m definitely going to watch Bright. (gotta get your money’s worth heh) Nice to hear it has a different element to it. I did see the critics have given it an ear bashing but hey you never know. Plus I’m going in with low expectations and sure to be surprised. .. Alien Nation is well a rewatch I think. Yeah it’s dated but speeds along at a good pace and the message is great. Thanks buddy

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If memory serves I don’t think I liked this one too much and not seeing any of the follow ups that’s probably the case. Maybe a second look after all these years might be a revelation.
    Caan has always been hit and miss for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe you wasn’t quite in the mood that day! It’s no masterpiece but it’s pretty good 80’s action sci-fi and “George” is such a good character. Worth another look maybe if it ever pops up on the telly. You know what dude, I’m the same with James Caan. I wanna like him more than I do. Always seems to play the same character. I do like him in Thief, The Gambler and Rollerball. Rollerball is a film of his I want to like more than I do. I wish 30 mins could be cut from the runtime and punch it right up. It just gets long and boring and it shouldn’t be. His best by far has to be Misery I think? Actually have one to watch soon, which I’m very much looking forward to, with him and Robert Duvall called Countdown. I think I’m gonna like that 🙂


  4. Meant to say that I also recommend Caan in Flesh and Bone and Comes A Horseman. Great actor who should have been a bigger star.

    Liked by 1 person

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