A Force of One on Blu-ray

Sunday, 05 August 2012 00:00 Written by 


A Force of One comes to Blu-rayChuck Norris: karate legend, facial hair champion and Internet meme par excellence. “A Force of One” is amongst his earliest movies, helping to establish a cult reputation that extends right up to the present day – at 72 years of age, no less - with a starring role in action extravaganza “The Expendables 2”. Roll back to 1979, and a rogue martial arts assassin is killing cops who get too close to a rapidly expanding narcotics ring.

In a fit of desperation, the police force persuades karate champ Matt Logan (Norris – Walker, Texas Ranger, “Way of the Dragon”) to give up some time to share a few basic self-defence techniques, giving the rank and file a fighting chance against their unseen nemesis. Meanwhile, Logan is preparing for a title defence against Jerry Sparks (Bill Wallace – “The Protector”), a powerful opponent who, like Logan, is ex-Special Forces.

“A Force of One” is a dependable, unpretentious action movie, albeit one that telegraphs its plot and has an abundance of clichés. Some might find the predictability off-putting, but I actually found it helped to set up the final reel, building anticipation for the inevitable final confrontation. Most of the characters are basic stereotypes but the brave, intelligent Detective Rust played by Jennifer O’Neill (“Scanners”, “Rio Lobo”) stands out as a more multi-faceted exception.

Norris puts on a good show, both in terms of the compelling action scenes and by demonstrating a disarming (no pun intended), naturalistic acting style. To some, his performances are solid oak but – in this case at least – he comes across as a committed, damaged individual who is gradually pushed until he teeters over a precipice.

The back-story explains that Logan’s wife died from a drug overdose, so he has a very personal connection to the police case. He also has to bring up his adopted son Charlie (Eric Laneuville – “The Omega Man”, St. Elsewhere), an effervescent teenager who cannot wait to get into the ring and prove himself. The chemistry between Logan, Charlie and Rust forms the solid core of the movie, supported by Clu Gulager (“The Return of the Living Dead”, “Piranha 3DD”) as the stalwart officer in charge, Lieutenant Dunne.

The direction by Paul Aaron (“Maxie”) is brisk, tense and exciting. The stakeout sequences are especially nerve-wracking, and the explosive karate bouts spliced in between the police investigation act as release valve for all the pent-up anxiety. All-in-all this is a simple and thrilling action movie that is sure to appeal to fans of “Enter the Dragon” and “Dirty Harry”.

Special features included in both versions include:

  • Making Of - Featurette
  • How America Changed Hollywood Forever
  • Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Director’s Commentary

The making-of and ‘America’ piece both feature some of the same talking heads, including figures behind American Cinema Group, the independent firm responsible for this movie and numerous others like it. They describe in fine detail the ways they challenged the big studios by using novel marketing and releasing techniques, such as renting out cinemas in one US city at a time, gradually spreading word of mouth without breaking the bank. Norris was apparently a good sport when asked to do his bit to promote the movies, travelling all over the States. Ironically (and sadly), the man himself does not contribute anything to these special features!

The Blu-ray version reviewed is impressively sharp and displays precious little noise, so this is the version to get if you have suitable AV equipment, especially given the budget price tag.

“A Force of One” (1979) is out now, courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 90 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £9.99 on DVD, £12.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Friday, 17 August 2012 08:34

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