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"`He hears the silence. He sees the darkness. He's the only one who can stop the killing.' That's the tagline for the drama action thriller A Force of One (1979), starring Chuck Norris. I have no idea what it means to `hear the silence', or `see the darkness', but I suppose it has something to do with being a karate man (martial artists in the late 70's apparently had yet to earn the distinction of being known as `martial artists', often referred to as `karate men', as illustrated within this film) ...or maybe some promotional person just thought it sounded cool. While this wasn't Chuck Norris' first starring feature (most accept 1979's Good Guys Wear Black to have that distinction), it was the first, decent film he starred in, and, along with his ever growing fan base, helped turn this 6-time World Karate champion an internationally known film star. Based on a story by Ernest Tidyman (Shaft, The French Connection), A Force of one was directed by Paul Aaron, whose previous credits at the time included A Different Story (1978) and the made for television version of The Miracle Worker (1979), starring Patty Duke. The film stars Chuck Norris (Lone Wolf McQuade, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning) and the always-lovely Jennifer O'Neill (Summer of '42, Scanners) with one of the most unattractive, butch haircuts I've ever seen on a female. Also appearing is Clu Gulager (The Last Picture Show), Ron O'Neal (Superfly, Red Dawn), and martial artist Bill `Superfoot' Wallace in his silver screen debut.
The film takes place in a relatively small California community, which is being overrun by the drug trade. As the film begins, we witness the death of two undercover detectives at the lethal hands of a mysterious, masked karate man. The detectives were investigating a lead, and met their fate while searching a local business (without a search warrant, I might add...which happens a number of times throughout the film, leading me to believe California has some of the most lax search and seizure laws in the nation). Anyway, the police are baffled by the deaths of two of their own, and soon come to the conclusion it must have been a karate man. This prompts them to seek out local karate expert and trainer Matt Logan (Norris) not only for possible leads, but also for training. Logan's hesitant to get involved, as he's busy training to defend his karate man title, but his conscience compels him, and he ends up helping out (which is good because everyone knows if you want to beat a karate man, you need a karate man). This ends up leading to one of the more cliché plot devices in films, where the bad guys harm one of Logan's kin, so now it's personal, forcing Logan to issue the declaration I used for the title of my review.
This wasn't a bad little independent action flick, certainly formulaic, aided marginally by some decent performances by O'Neill (the scene where she reacts to the deaths of a couple of colleagues was pretty strong) and even Norris himself (whom, incidentally got his training as an actor from Jonathan Harris, better known as Dr. Smith, from TV's Lost in Space). Director Paul Aaron seemed like an odd choice, given his non-action film work, but he did reasonably well on all counts. The supporting cast did well, but their characters weren't given a whole lot to work with, and it shows. This is especially true of Gulager's character of Chief Dunne, who seemed to know very little about what his detectives were investigating, and so when they turned up dead, there were virtually no leads to follow...great job keeping track of your people...I guess keeping you informed, reporting in, calling for back up and such, wasn't a priority (neither was the appropriation of search warrants, but I already mentioned that). I really liked the scenes where Norris' character is training the detectives in karate, as they provided a nice bit of levity in an otherwise a serious film. I also enjoyed the interaction between Norris' character and that of his adopted son as it felt natural, despite the character of the son turning into an obvious plot device later in the film (he was also in danger of becoming a comic relief character, but thankfully it never crossed that threshold). The real treat here is the fight scenes, choreographed by Norris himself and his younger brother Aaron. There's a feel of realism that's sometimes lacking in other action films. Director Aaron made a wise choice avoiding a lot of quick cuts and close-ups during these scenes, rather letting the scenes play out in lengthy wide shots. And is it me, or does the head bad guy Melrose, played by actor Clint Ritchie, look a heck of a lot like Gil Gerard, from TV's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? And Melrose...if you're going to commit a crime, don't wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the store you work at while doing it (yeah, I know, he was wearing a blazer over it, but it was still visible)...
The film on this DVD is presented in full screen, and the picture is sharp and clear. I would have preferred the inclusion of a wide screen version, but what are you gonna do? The audio came through clearly, and gives the option of 5.1 Dolby Digital, along with 2.0 Mono in English, Spanish, or French. Special features include two featurettes titled `The Making of A Force of One' (16 min), and `How American Cinema Changed Hollywood Forever' (28 min) which details the rise and fall of American Cinema Group (the independent production company that originally released this film), and how their unique, innovative ideas and methods for making and marketing films eventually got co-opted by the larger studios, along with the company itself. Also included are cast and crew bios, along with a trailer and television commercial for the film.
One of Chuck's Best!
the kung fu kid | 01/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Chuck's best! He plays a champion karate instructor who's been asked to help teach self-defense classes to a class of police officers on the trail of a cop-killer they believe is a skilled martial artist. There's fun dialogue (listen to that offscreen cop muse about baseball mit prices while he and his partner search for clues at a sporting goods store!), good fight scenes (Wallace's kicks and Norris's spinning back fist look very sharp during the tournament matches), involving scenes of suspense (run, Charlie, run!), and Chuck dialogue at its best ("Whoever did this, is as good as dead.") It's got a low budget feel (because it WAS a low budget pic) with some extended long shots (not a lot of different camera angles and fancy framing), but that adds a little realistic touch and some extra charm to the film as well. Highly recommended for fans of Chuck! (Other top-notch Chuck Norris films would be CODE OF SILENCE and WAY OF THE DRAGON-also known as RETURN OF THE DRAGON. And I also recommend SLAUGHTER IN SAN FRANSISCO which is a REALLY low budget Hong Kong movie starring Don Wong-also known as Wong Dao-where mouths don't match the words and Chuck plays a really good bad guy!)"
Great cheesy martial arts fun
Wesley Bowers | Pacifica, CA | 10/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge fan of Chuck Norris' movies before his Walker TV show. A Force of One was a title that was hard to find, either on DVD or VHS, and in the last 10 years, has only been shown on cable TV where I live once. This is a film about a karate master (Norris) enlisted by the local PD to teach some narcotics cops karate, because a "karate killer" is killing off cops that get too close to a drug ring. It's great to see a pre-mustache and beard Norris. I think this was movie geared more toward exposing the public to who Norris was, and what karate was all about. There's really no story or thick plot, or even interesting characters, but -- this is a Chuck Norris movie! Good movie to kill a Saturday afternoon on."
Chuck Norris in one of his lesser movies
morgoth | omaha, NE | 08/16/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The police have seen a rise in drug crimes, and they suspect that a killer trained in karate is killing their narcotics officers. Karate expert Chuck Norris is called in to catch the killer and also to train the officers in karate. Chuck Norris plays a kickboxer in the movie, and he finds out that his toughest oppenent in the ring is the karate killer the cops are looking for. This leads to a showdown between Chuck Norris and the villain. It starts in the ring, and ends out of the ring.
Th final fight is extremely short and so are all the other fights. I may be able to excuse the bad fight scenes if the story was good, but it isn't even close to good. There isn't any development put into ANY of the characters and this is where the movie really fails. The most enjoyment I got out of this movie was when it finally ended.
The DVD from Trinity Home Entertainment is full screen, but doesn't block out any of the action. Sound is good.
There is a great 15 minute making of featurette that includes interviews with the president of American Cinema, the director of the movie, the composer, and many others. One thing the director talks about is the casting. Unfortunately he doesn't talk about casting Bill "Superfoot" Wallace as the villain.
The other special feature is a 28 minute documentary on "How American Cinema changed Hollywood forever". This talks about how Chuck Norris was the film company's main star and how their company got started. It is the same documentary that is on Trinity's release of The Octagon"
It's the Force!
Spa Fanatic | California | 11/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A force Of One is one of Chuck Norris's best. It had action and some big name actors like Clu Gullager (from The Hidden and Return Of The Living Dead)Chuck Norris plays a karate instructor (and a boxer on the side) who helps the police train because there is a "killer ninja" on the loose. Norris doesn't do a good job showing enough emotion though,(*possible spoiler*) as in the scene about the death of his son. As I said, there are some good action scenes, especially the boxing scenes. Go see it, because it is one of the best action films of the 1970's!"