Oh, the high hopes that I had for the direct-to-video film Ultimate Force. Here we have a film starring none other than Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic, the former cop from Croatia who went on to become an asskicking mixed martial artist in UFC and Pride. So how could I not be excited? This is, after all, a movie that Black Belt Magazine said is "Universal Soldier meets The Bourne Supremacy." I mean that's one helluva statement. Of course, let's not forget that Jean Claude Van Damme called Ultimate Force star Cro-Cop "a new Charles Bronson." And with the "Muscles from Brussels" giving you a ringing endorsement like that, you've got to be a special kind of talent!
Well, let me tell you that I felt like some kind of fool for getting excited over Ultimate Force. I felt like a nubile high school cheerleader who gives up her virginity to the captain of the football team after he says "I love you" on the first date, only to find out he has another girlfriend, and he gave me syphilis. Which is to say that I was plenty upset after watching this monumentally terrible bit of excrement.
Cro-Cop stars as a deadly assassin code-named Sphinx, who fails in his latest mission, and now finds himself in danger of being killed by his superiors. But since Sphinx is such a deadly killing machine (and when you think about it, aren't all killing machines deadly?), Janus (Igor Galo), his boss thinks it would be a waste to execute him. Instead, Janus wants to "recondition" Sphinx, so he sends him to a special island, where Cro-Cop must fight to the death with a bunch of other guys. But this is really some sort of ploy to trick Sphinx into becoming a pawn in power play that involves his ex-girlfriend (Ruza Madarevic) and Janus.
The decision to watch Ultimate Force was made with the conceit that it would be bad, but knowing that sometimes bad films can be somewhat entertaining. Unfortunately, there was nothing fun about this ineptly executed bit of Z-grade schlock. Everything in this film is bad, starting with Mark Burson's writing and directing. But the lame script and pedestrian direction by Burson is nothing compared to his apparent lack of editing skills, which are woefully obvious during the film's lame-ass fight scenes. Burson tries to copy the fast-pace, quick-cut edit style of films The Bourne Identity, but fails miserably, creating a jumbled mess of Cro-Cop punching and kicking his opponents. It doesn't help that Crop-Cop's fight choreography could use a little work. Here's a suggestion: when staging fight sequences for an action film, don't make them look like something you would find in an instructional video.
Probably the only wise thing Burson does as a filmmaker is keep his actors silent for most of the film. The sparse dialog has a two-fold positive effect. First, it keeps us from having to endure the insipid writing. Second, it keeps us from having to ask, "What did he just say?" as the thick-accent Croatian cast fumbles with their English dialog. Seriously, at times you simply don't know what these guys are saying, and it makes you wonder if the actors weren't so focused on trying to say their dialog in English if they might have given better performances. But that's like trying to figure out a way to make your shit stink less.
It is difficult to adequately express how bad Ultimate Force really is. But if you were to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the lesser works of Don "the Dragon" Wilson and Billy Blanks, you'd just be scratching the surface of this stinker. Seriously, there aren't even decent fight scenes to use an excuse for sitting through this nonsense, which makes this film the B-movie action flick equivalent to a porno without good sex scenes.
Ultimate Force is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. The picture transfer is not that good. Light levels fluctuate during certain scenes, while other scenes appear to be washed out. Of course, this could be a result of bad filmmaking, and not a bad transfer.
Ultimate Force is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. The language spoken in the film is English, as filtered through thick Croatian accents, which means it doesn't matter how good or bad the sound mix is, because most of the time it is difficult to understand what is being said. So, when you turn up the sound because the audio levels are a bit low, keep in mind that you still won't know what's being said.
The "making of" featurette (7 min.) that was shot on blown-out video, with bad subtitles, is slightly more entertaining than the film itself. Of course, it is also over 70 minutes shorter. An interview with Cro-Cop (4 min.) proves that he is more articulate than the film makes him appear.
Reading this review was giving Ultimate Force more time and energy than it deserves. Any one of the eight Bloodfist movies or the five American Ninja films would be a better waste of time.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]