Thought-provoking, witty and entertaining, this action-packed blend of science fiction and police drama finds Los Angeles the new home of 300,000 humanoid extraterrestrial. When a gang of these Newcomers kills a police detective's (JAMES CANN) partner, he sets out to solve the crime with his new partner (MANDY PATINKIN) - the L.A.P.D.'s first Newcomer detective. But the unlikely pair soon uncover a far more dangerous threat to society.
They get drunk on sour milk. They have two hearts and bald, spotted heads. They're highly intelligent, but if you drop them in seawater they'll melt into a puddle of goop. They're "Newcomers," and they arrived as refugees in a massive alien slave-ship, quarantined for three years and then reluctantly accepted as citizens of Earth. To some humans--including seasoned Los Angeles cop Matt Sykes (James Caan)--the Newcomers are unwelcome "slags." Sykes's own virulent "speciesism" intensifies when Newcomer thugs kill his partner, but he sees logic in teaming up with Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin), the first Newcomer detective in the LAPD. Francisco's Newcomer knowledge is vital to their investigation of an alien drug ring, and a friendship grows from life-or-death circumstances.
A routine cop thriller with a comedic sci-fi twist, Alien Nation> has two things working in its favor: Caan and Patinkin form a memorable duo, and the basic premise--as conceived by Rockne S. O'Bannon (who later developed the film as a TV series)--intelligently accounts for the sociological impact of an alien population. The subtle point is made that humans are extraordinary beings who squander their potential, and the evil of drugs--as dealt by a social-climbing Newcomer played by Terence Stamp--leads to a crisis that threatens to generate global intolerance. These points are well presented in a context of overly familiar plotting and standard-issue sarcasm. It's entertaining for a brisk 90 minutes, but in its attempt to be widely appealing, Alien Nation glosses over issues that might have made it more uniquely provocative. --Jeff Shannon