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Lethal Force
by Matt Hudson
    Posted April 23, 2002  
    Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

As a kid watching movies I always tended to become bored with the first third of most films. I usually watched monster movies or what passed for action films back then and it seemed that the first third of most of those films was talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. I sat down to watch monsters, space battles, spy assassinations, bank robberies, car chases, etc. What kid wants to watch people yammering endlessly? The previews didn't show all this talking. They showed the action and promised lots of it. I didn't get it in the first third of most of those movies, and I always wanted to see a movie that started with action and gave me little else right up to the end.

So I've been waiting...

Writer/director Alvin Ecarma comes to my rescue with Lethal Force. Within two minutes, there is bloodshed, ass-whupping, and total disregard for the laws of physics, and other than a couple of creepily funny scenes of male bonding of the most unusual kind, the action hammers away at you for more than seventy minutes.

The story is basically unimportant. Jack Carter's family is kidnapped by Mal Locke, who uses this leverage to have Jack betray his friend Savitch, who is a super assassin. No great depth there; we've seen variations of this dozens of times before. But the story itself is not the point here. What matters with Lethal Force is how the story is told.

Alvin Ecarma throws so much at you that your head will spin. There's references and rip-offs of "spaghetti" westerns, Hong Kong action bloodbaths, James Bond films, Chuck Norris embarrassments, Pam Grier star vehicles, not to mention Al Adamson cheesiness and Ray Dennis Steckler zero-budget determination scattered about. And in spite of that, it all works together. Don't ask me how. I've watched the film twice, and I get lost in the fight scene choreography and trying figure out how such a horribly low-budget film can play so damn well with so much being crammed into it.

The best thing about the entire movie has to be the outrageous action scenes that even Jackie Chan would have to look at and mutter, "Damn, that's good." Sure, they are spliced together from dozens of individual shots, but the editing is so slick that you want to believe these people are performing the most ungodly dangerous fight scenes ever committed to film. Of course, everything is so overblown that no one can take the violence seriously, even when two-foot drill bits are applied to skulls or curling irons are used as sexual torture devices. My personal favorite is the stream of blood that shoots out of the eyehole of a masked goon when Savitch smashes the guy's head into a wall.

The acting in this film is a hard call as most of the dialogue seems to have been recorded after the scenes had been shot. The actors are appropriately poker-faced as they are beaten, shot, hit by cars, and fall from extreme heights, but when they talk, everything comes off like a badly dubbed Asian action film. Whether that effect was intended or not, it added to the parody of all the films to which Lethal Force pays tribute.

Fans of action-filled, Hong Kong-style cinema would do themselves a disservice if they did not seek out Lethal Force and give it the cult classic status it deserves. Any film that can wallow in its own schlockiness and still be this fun ought to become a hit.
    Matt Hudson truly believes that the popularity of The Matrix is a sure sign of the final stage of The Apocalypse. A fan of horror, fantasy, and exploitation movies, Matt contributes film reviews to The Dog Pile on a regular basis.