One Man Force

Cost: £2.99 – double feature with Blue Jean Cop (Review here- )

Tag line: No one enforces the law…like he does!

Sample dialogue:  “I’m going to blow off your head, and shit in your throat!”

Ah, the 80s cop movie. Where would we be without you? Detectives that don’t play by the rule book, goofy sidekicks, angry police chiefs and Al Leong, are all usually present and correct. In the background there’s a wailing sax and the final fight tends to be in an abandoned warehouse/container ship.

And so it is with One Man Force. Sort of. Al Leong isn’t in it. But for the most part it sticks to the 1980s cop formula.

Not in this film.

Former NFL player John Matuszak plays Jack Swan (when did script writers lose the ability to give their lead characters cool sounding names anyway?), a cop who is trying to bring down a Mexican drug cartel in LA.

The film opens with what looks like the start of a cool action scene at a bar. A masked man enters through the back, and sees a woman and man talking behind the counter. A customer is having an early morning drink.  The masked man announces his presence by shouting “I’m going to kill you sucker!” which, let’s be fair, is not one of the most memorable opening lines to a movie.

Everyone dives for cover as bullets start flying. Each of the participants gets hit…at which point it is revealed that it is just paintballs. The masked man is our hero, and the couple behind the bar are his partner (played by Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones) and his partner’s wife. They all have a good laugh, while the customer has a heart attack and collapses.

Now this confuses me on a number of levels. Firstly, this is an impromptu paintball match, which leads me to think this is what they do all the time. Secondly, paintballs hurt – surely putting your customers in the crossfire isn’t good for business, unless you advertised yourself as a paintballing pub, of course. Which would actually be amazing, (Take a Shot, Then Take a Shot!) and I have totally copyrighted that idea. The third point is – bottles of spirits are broken in this game.  Flash Gordon doesn’t seem too bothered by this loss of income. But who can blame him when there are bad guys to hunt down?

Swan and Flash meet with their Chief, played with the usual aplomb by acting legend Ronny Cox (Robocop, Total Recall). They want permission to go to a warehouse that they have been tipped off is where the drugs are being smuggled into the city. Of course Ronny Cox, being Ronny Cox, needs more than vague tips. He needs facts goddammit!

This is a perfectly valid point. You can’t have cops running around trying to solve cases on the basis of what some untrustworthy tipster has said. They need evidence, facts. That is the sort of police service I want.

Being that this is not The Wire, Swan and Flash don’t like this, and so go off to the factory anyway. There is a gun fight, and Flash gets shot square in the chest, dying in Swan’s arms. Swan enraged, lifts up a huge refrigerator and crushes the man that killed his partner.

Sorry Brian, but Gordon is most definitely not alive in the film.

(It should be pointed out that John Matuszak was a bear of a man, and not in the sense of Arnie or Sly, with biceps. He was just a bear. A huge man. Not what you would call a traditional action lead. Most of you will never have heard of his name before, but you will be familiar with his greatest role, that of Sloth, in the Richard Donner motion picture The Goonies.)

After crushing one of the henchmen, the leader of the drug cartel (who has a pencil thin moustache and drives a car that comes out of the 1930s) tries to attack our hero, but fails, and escapes.  Swan holds Flash in his arms, and carries him out, in a scene where you expect a romantic tune to start playing. A… ‘Swan-song’, perhaps? (No applause, please.)

Now Swan is without a partner, and is put on leave from the force. He needs to deal with his partner’s son, who is into drugs, and is one of those annoying kids who tries to act like a punk but never pulls it off.  But mostly he wants to bring his version of justice down on the whole criminal system.

While all this is happening the TV announces that a pop star has been kidnapped. The pop star is played by Stacey Q. I wasn’t sure who Stacey Q was, but a look on YouTube and Wikipedia has revealed that this was her most popular song. I have never heard of it before. Have you? Let us know in the comments section.

Ring any bells to anyone? Anyone?

A man who claims to be Stacey Q’s manager comes to Swan, asking for help to track down his client. Getting a tip-off from his buddies at the force, Swan heads to a nightclub to find out more.

The 1980s Action Movie Nightclub is a weird thing to behold.  You wonder if nightclubs in LA really did resemble the Blue Oyster Bar as seen in the Police Academy series, or if they were what people who took a lot of drugs thought they looked like. This one seems to have been a club for gay men, but then there are some women around, and whips and chains, and what appears to be a cameo from Don Estelle, of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum fame.

Is whipped in this film. I can sense you all going to Amazon to buy the movie now.

This being an 80s cop movie, the whole bar ends up attacking Swan, who uses poor old Estelle by swinging him around on his chain, like a helicopter blade, knocking out the attacking patrons. But he is nearly overwhelmed, until saved by the late, great, Charles Napier, and his pal, a couple of undercover cops. We will be hearing more from them later on.

It turns out that the man claiming to be Stacy Q’s manager, was in fact NOT (gasp), and he is found dead the next day. This movie has layers and layers. Swan is convinced it is all connected to his partner’s death. Cox, again, wants actual evidence to back this up.

A bunch of other stuff then happens (please know, I too am aware of the word count) including a car chase where Swan goes after the informant who tipped them off about the drugs in the first place. As the car crashes, and explodes, Swan spits out the immortal line: “Damn, I forgot to bring my marshmallows!”.

He also teaches his partner’s son to say NO to drugs and trains him to fight the dealers still wanting money off him. The two of them train in a mini-montage sequence, and the whole thing feels disconnected to the main plot, mostly resembling a PSA about how drugs are bad (The best of which was done by Clint Eastwood can be viewed here ).

In another memorable scene, Swan is being chased the Mexican gang through a block of flats. He knocks on a door of a woman, asking her to come in because he’s a cop. She instantly agrees to do so. And, more than that, strips off, throws him onto her bed, and answers the door to the drug gang half-naked, telling them to scram. This lady must be very trusting to do all of this, without any evidence or knowledge that Swan is actually a cop. He must just have a trusting face.

We also get to see Swan engage in the art of seduction at an upper-class nightclub. There is not much more disturbing than seeing a 7ft giant of a man, trying to dance in a nightclub, and gyrating with a woman half his height, and one tenth his body weight. But she is into it, so what do I know. LA is an odd town.

Who wouldn't want to see a movie with this guy playing a cop?

Thankfully there is no sex scene as it turns out Swan has been set up. Taken to a ranch where Stacey Q is also being held, he is beaten up, and then put into a box. Why they don’t shoot them before doing so, we never find out.

Swan escapes from this and the film barrels along to its conclusion. Stacey Q, and the lady that fooled Swan end up dead. We find out that Charles Napier and his partners are in a conflict with the drug gangs, and they kidnapped her for leverage. Why Charles Napier is worried about a pop star we never find out.

At the end there is a confrontation in an abandoned warehouse (yay!) where Richard Lynch pops up as the boss. It is also revealed that Ronny Cox is in cahoots with them all. He has big debts in Las Vegas. This teaches me to trust in the law.

There is a big gun fight, with explosions befit for such an occasion. Napier gets electrocuted. Ronny Cox is killed by an explosion throwing him off a platform. Napier’s partner is killed by Swan crushing him with a Pepsi machine. The best death is reserved for Lynch, who is throw from a roof, his leg caught in a rope, and swings in and out of a massive fire, slowly barbecuing. Pretty sweet death scene, it has to be said.

Richard Gere wants his movie back.

One Man Force ticks all the boxes. Yes, everything in this film has been done elsewhere, and better. But that doesn’t matter. It still does things well. John Matuszak is actually insane in the role. His eyes bulge when he shouts. He rants about the drug dealers destroying the lives of kids, and he screams: “YOU…KILLED…MY…PARTNER!!!”

It is a compelling performance. Sadly we were never able to find out what sort of career John Matuszak would have had after this film, as he passed away the year it was released.

Good movie, bad movie or beer movie? Beer movie

[Robert Girvan]


2 thoughts on “One Man Force

  1. Hi Simon,

    Cheers for the comment! The fridge scene was indeed great – but I really did admire the way they killed the main bad guy – a slow roast over a fire was a pretty inventive way to take someone out! Hope you enjoy the other reviews as well!

    Robert G

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