Review: Cloak & Dagger

Cloak & Dagger Japanese VHS cover

Directed by: Richard Franklin
Category: Cult Classic

Growing up in the 80's, I had a handful of films that I absolutely loved and watched obsessively to the point of knowing every single line of dialogue by heart. This was one of those films, as was The Goonies, The Last Dragon, Real Genius, Fright Night and The Monster Squad to name a few.

I love this film and still continue to pop it in every once in a while just to have something playing in the background when I'm working from home. I can't really pin point any one specific element because I feel the film as a whole works wonderfully for me. Cloak & Dagger was filmed in San Antonio, TX, a place I've visited often as I also live in Texas and I enjoy pointing out location spots that I've actually been to while watching it. It's just a nerdy thing I guess. This came out in 1984 before Nintendo took the video gaming world by storm, so the system they use in the film frequently is an Atari, and I suppose that also adds to the nostalgia factor for me, because at the heart of the film it's a video game that ultimately gets the ball rolling so it's an important aspect of the entire film.

Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas) is an 11 year old with an active imagination with a military father (Dabney Coleman) who doesn't understand him. Obsessed with the video game "Cloak & Dagger", Davey utilizes the spy tactics and situations learned from the game and it's central character Jack Flack (also Dabney Coleman) in his day to day activities, even seeing and talking to the imaginary Jack Flack on a regular basis. Always dragging his one friend Kim along, they decide to visit there friend Morris (William Forsythe), who owns a video game store in the local mall. Morris asks them to do a "covert" operation and run an errand for him where Davey witnesses a murder. Before dying, the scientist that Davey comes across hands him a Cloak & Dagger game cartridge that he says has Military secrets encoded on it. Soon a group of bad guys led by the evil Dr. Rice (Michael Murphy) are after Davey and will stop at nothing to get that game cartridge.

One of the things this film has going for it, is that it never lets up. Writer Tom Holland (Fright Night, Childs Play) keeps the pace moving along smoothly, never letting the viewer ever get bored. Unfortunately, there's not a lot to admire in terms of Richard Franklin's direction. It's all pretty standard stuff with not an ounce of visual flare, which just proves Holland's script is what makes the film, as well as Dabney Coleman in dual roles. It's funny because whenever I think of Coleman, my mind automatically goes to all of his asshole roles, because he's so good at it. Around this time he was knocking them out in droves with films like 9 to 5, The Muppet's Take Manhattan and Tootsie. But here he plays both Davey's no nonsense military dad, which he plays effortlessly, but he also plays Davey's imaginary friend Jack Flack, the main character in the Cloak & Dagger game. But as Jack Flack, Dabney Coleman plays a role you're not used to him playing. As Jack Flack, Coleman is smooth, charming and above all things, cool; all the things Davey wishes his dad could be. To differentiate Jack Flack from Davey's dad, Coleman sports a head-to-toe leather getup with a berrete hat (not sure if I spelled that right) and pencil thin jet black and nicely groomed mustache, compared to the bushy salt and pepper mustache he wears as the dad and in real life. As Flack, Coleman exudes confidence and charisma and whenever he's on screen as Jack Flack, he steals the show. 

Regular baddie William Forsythe was fun to watch as a young and nerdy video game store owner with coke bottle glasses and a shaggy beard. I sometimes forget that while usually always playing a bad guy, the guy's done comedy (Raising Arizona), drama and everything in between. Henry Thomas, who two years before this starred in E.T. is a really fun kid to watch. The kid's a natural pro and I'm surprised is career didn't explode after the one-two punch of E.T. and this. 

This is a great film from beginning to end. I'm always surprised when someone tells me they've never heard of it or they have, but have never seen it. Growing up in the 80's, I remember this running continuously on HBO along with The Last Starfighter and Commando, especially during the summer. Good memories. I'll always jump at the chance to watch this film again, even though I could recite the entire thing for you line for line. It's just one of those all-time classics for me and always will be.


  1. Never seen this rG, sounds fun. Is it out on DVD?

  2. Wow, never heard of it...there is supposed to be a VHS released in Germany, but I cant find it yet...ill keep looking. The US DVD seems the only way, or you find the japanases VHS,lol...damn, I`ll track that down and watch it... it has a stupid german title ( a deadly game, if translated).

  3. found it on ebay, vhs goes for close to 20 Euros...

  4. A hero never dies: It is a lot of fun. It's one of my favorite films ever, even though it's severely outdated since it was 1984 and Atari was "the" gaming system back then. But I think that's what add's to it's charm. It is available on DVD very cheap, at least in the U.S. I loved seeing, more than anything, Dabney Coleman in dual roles. And when he's the smooth Jack Flack, it's just gold.

  5. Just watched a bit of it, seems it was too serious for kids and too silly for adults, maybe thats the reason its relatively unknown...really never herd of it before...and that despite the kid from ET.

  6. Ingo: Cloak & Dagger sounds much cooler. lol. Over here in the states, the VHS goes for almost nothing. It's not a sought after film really so it's easily available. But the DVD is the way to go, plus it's in widescreen. I'm sending you a package anyway, so I can throw that in there as well.

  7. You should give it a chance. It's a pretty straight forward thriller, except it involves a kid.