Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stuck In The 80s - Avenging Force

My wife recently bought us an inexpensive Phillips DVD player that will play multi-region discs. As movie buffs, it had frustrated us for some time that some of the films we wanted were available in other parts of the world, but not in the U.S.  Films like Solomon Kane, for example.Of course, while the Internet and a credit card makes ordering products from overseas a simple as a click of the mouse, we've already discovered a few small hazards of International purchases. On the plus side, so far we've found exceptionally reasonable prices for many of the DVDs we want. Even with shipping, they've been cheaper than I would expect to pay for a comparable domestic product. But, on the minus side, many online retailers (including giants like Amazon UK) are infuriatingly vague in regard to such details as what aspect ratio the films are are presented, what language they're in, and whether they've been enhanced for 16x9 widescreen displays.

Anyway, I digress. As may be obvious from my posts here of late, I've been in a mood for 80s-early 90s-stye action films. One that I've really been wanting to see again is the 1986 Cannon Films flick, Avenging Force, starring the guys from American Ninja (another favorite), Michael Dudikoff and the late, great Steve James. Unfortunately, the movie has never been released on DVD in U.S.  Fortunately, it was released in England, and an affordable copy was available for me to order through Amazon UK, and it showed up here in Maine today.  I was a little disappointed to discover that it isn't in widescreen (damn those vague product descriptions, anyway!), but what the hell. It's better than nothing - and certainly better than paying twice as much for an old, worn-out VHS tape.

Watched it this evening. It was the first time I'd seen Avenging Force since I caught it in the 80s on one of the Pay-cable television stations. It's fun - Dudikoff and James had good chemistry here and in the American Ninja flicks they did together, and the direction by Cannon mainstay Sam Firstenberg is competent and professional. It has some decent action scenes, and great, picturesque New Orleans/Louisiana bayou locations. The final sequences, set in a very scary swamp during a rainstorm, were very well staged, especially for a Firstenberg flick.

Coincidentally, the New Orleans locations and Most Dangerous Game story element of rich and powerful men hunting human beings for sport prefigure similar elements in John Woo's 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, Hard Target. At least, I assume it's coincidental.

Surprisingly, Avenging Force has a notably different tone from the other Cannon action films of the time, as the villains aren't foreign terrorists or Russkies, but a domestic right wing supremacist group. The ending is odd, too - quite blatantly leaving the door open for a sequel (or series).

Interestingly, Dudikoff's character has the same name ("Matt Hunter") as Chuck Norris' character in Invasion U.S.A., made by the same studio the year before - although he's quite differently written in Force than he was in Invasion. I wonder if Cannon was toying with creating another in-house franchise...?

1 comment:

Britt Reid said...

Co-star Steve James was a major fanboy with an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and genre films.
He loved both martial arts flicks and old movie serials and talked about the Republic Studios stunt crew with admiration.
I did occasional hosting duties on a public access show about comics in NYC in the '80s and Steve popped in several times to chat and even demonstrate martial arts moves.

Steve died from pancreatic cancer in 1993.