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July 17 - July 23, 2002 Send a letter to the editor about this article printer-friendly version
Film

Lethal Force

Review By Eric Allen Hatch

No offense to John Waters, but one of the best Baltimore-set cult films in years comes from an upstart filmmaker hailing from the Washington suburbs. Alvin Ecarma's Lethal Force radiates as much self-confidence as any debut feature in recent memory, regardless of genre, and as a low-budget romp through the cult-film canon, it's a psychotronic triumph of the highest order. Ecarma's movie includes crafty references to B-movie icons such as Jack Hill, Bruce Lee, James Glickenhaus, and Ray Dennis Steckler. Thankfully, Ecarma's hilarious script and strong cinematic sensibility turn what could have been a disjointed parade of pastiches into a tight and memorable entertainment.

Suburban gangster Jack (Frank Prather) returns home to find his wife dead and his son Patrick (J. Patrick Collins Jr.) kidnapped by wheelchair-bound crime lord Mal (Andrew Hewitt). In exchange for sparing Patrick, Mal demands that Jack lure his best friend and hit man of choice, Savitch ("Cash Flagg Jr."--a Steckler homage), into a fatal trap. Meanwhile, Patrick remains in captivity, protected from creepy pedophiles by Mal's No. 1 black-and-beautiful henchwoman, Rita (Patricia Williams). If Savitch manages to escape Mal's clutches, how will he settle his score with Jack?

Clearly, Lethal Force finds its center in cartoonish '80s action-revenge flicks like Commando; it's replete with Ah-noldesque one-liners and a blood-soaked body count. In parodying this material, Ecarma shows savvy by essentially making an earnest '80s action-revenge flick and letting the genre's dated conventions parody themselves. At appropriate moments, he grafts onto his spartan plot flourishes borrowed from blaxploitation classics, spaghetti westerns, and Hong Kong cinema old and new (the last abetted by professional-looking action choreography by Eric Thornett).

Although Ecarma's movie won both the Jury and Audience awards for Best Feature at last year's MicroCineFest, it would be doing Lethal Force a disservice to dwell on its miniscule budget and cheapo production values. For laughs and excitement, Lethal Force compares favorably to most of Hollywood's bloated output. By setting his sights on drive-in classics and late-night cable fodder, Ecarma knows he doesn't need to provide polish--just blood, guts, and giggles.


More Film in this issue:
Lethal Force

Director: Alvin Ecarma
Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime and Cult
At the Creative Alliance for one show only, July 19 at 8 p.m.


We don't have any films in our database directed by Alvin Ecarma. Check for Alvin Ecarma at the Internet Movie Database.

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