To his credit, former professional wrestler Steve Austin has grown into an increasing level of comfort since he decided to transition into films, achieving a modest level of success in action films with established stars of the genre, and even appeared in mainstream projects, most recently with The Expendables. Tactical Force is another notch on Austin's cinematic belt, but is he starting to plateau with these things?
The script was written and directed by Adamo Cultraro (Bad Ass), with Austin finding himself cast as Sykes, the head of a four-person tactical S.W.A.T. unit in Los Angeles. The group is also comprised of Hunt (Michael Jai White, Black Dynamite), Jennard (Lexa Doig, Andromeda) and Blanco (Steve Bacic, Good Luck Chuck). The group is your stereotypical bunch of cops who break the rules and occasional civilian-owned windows and/or products. However, when it comes to hostage situations, few are better at bringing the hostages back safe and sound than this quartet, regardless of the collateral damage. Each of the members knows their ins and outs and work exceptionally well together despite their heavy handedness. A recent situation caused enough damage that their boss yells at them with vim and vigor, and orders them to go through remedial training in the hopes that they focus their damage on the proper targets. This also includes some real world practice at an abandoned air hangar. Unbeknownst to them, the hangar is the backdrop for two rival gangs which include former UFC fighter Keith Jardine (Crank 2) and Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1) and several other criminals who are loaded for bear against Sykes' team who is only carrying blanks.
It sounds like a slightly interesting premise, and in the 88-minute runtime using as many clichés as possible gets you to the hangar as quickly as you can, but that's when things get a little hinkey. The issue of the rival gangs hating one another but focusing their energy on this casual bunch of admittedly effective police officers gets grating as the film goes on, to say nothing for the reasons why the gangs are in the hangar to begin with. Apparently, there have been some stolen goods that have been stashed in a briefcase somewhere in the hangar. Toss into the mix a sniveling informant with a horrible moustache helping one side, both gangs set out trying to find it. They are portrayed as fearsome badasses, but are about as horrible and violence as a weekend with the in-laws.
To Austin's credit, he takes the flaws in the story in stride, and is comfortable in his role as leader and top badass of the bunch, using a mix of humor and dedication to his role. I'd reasonably buy a 40 something, 250-pound former wrestler as a SWAT leader. Equally as comfortable in his role is White as the trusted second-in-command with his lucky Red Ryder BB gun, designed to add a bit of nuance to his character. White is an accomplished martial artist, so in between him, Austin and Jardine, there is a whole lot of gunfire and a whole bunch of hand to hand fighting. Watching all of this punching and kicking inspires you to smoke a cigar while making sweet love to your lady and eating a steak, sometimes simultaneously.
Somewhere, you can sense that Austin conveys this feeling of "Yeah, I know the story sucks, but work with me, OK?" And that's fine, because it's kind of hard not to. He exudes a confidence through his years in the squared circle that allow for some trust on the silver screen. Tactical Force might not be the prettiest girl in the dance, but you'll take her home at the end of the night, for better or worse.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen using the VC-1 codec, Tactical Force looks excellent. Almost immediately, image detail looks good, from the textures in the bank robbers' mask to the lighting in the grocery store. You can see facial pores and skin features even better in tight shots of White and Austin in the second and third acts, and the ring on Austin's head after he takes the Kevlar helmet off from the warehouse practice is surprisingly noticeable. Black levels are deep and inky and remain so throughout the feature and skin tones look accurate throughout. All in all the source material is solid.
With the film's DTS-HD Master Audio lossless surround track, you get your fair share of activity throughout. Bullet hits ring out over all of the speakers and provide a convincing level of immersion. In addition, the quieter sequences possess quite a bit of directional activity and channel panning on their own. Dialogue is centered and consistent and to the movie's credit, it handles the power and the more subtle moments really well. And you should make sure your subwoofer gets its calisthenics in, as it does work throughout.
Things are pretty topical as far as bonus material goes. "Inside Tactical Force" (10:39) is the closest thing to a making-of featurette on the disc, with Austin, White and Jardine sharing their thoughts on the film and story, along with the stunt choreography and shooting weapons. Austin seems to drop the film's production office name in during the interview, but otherwise it covers all of the basics. Next is "Fight Sequence" (2:18), which is actually a montage of the film's fight scenes. The trailer (1:20) completes things.
You've seen almost all of what Tactical Force brings to the table in other movies, but that's not to say that it should be dismissed out of hand completely, as Austin and White put enough tongue in cheek to make you go along for the ride. From a bonus material perspective it sucks, but technically is a pleasant surprise on Blu-ray, and if you find yourself starving for a modest little popcorn action film, this will do the trick.