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Force of One, A
Based on a script by Earnest Tidyman (of Shaft and The French Connection), Paul Aaron's 1979 film, A Force Of One, follows the story of Matt Logan (played by Chuck Norris), a Karate instructor/boxing trainer who is basically made into an undercover cop. Why do the police get this private citizen involved in their business? Because when the narcs were getting close to moving in on some big time drug dealers, a mysterious ‘karate killer' showed up on the scene and killed them all off. One of these cops, Mandy Rust (Jennifer O'Neill) starts to wonder if maybe the cops that were killed just might have been offed by a trained assassin of sorts. She's the one who gets in touch with Logan, who is, initially at least, far more concerned about preparing for his upcoming bout with a tough guy named Sparks (Bill ‘Superfoot' Wallace) than anything else..
The police are smart enough to know that Logan is really the only man to help them out of this mess and give them the martial arts training that they need to survive this ordeal. Before long Logan is working side by side with the fuzz to hunt down and stop this maniacal martial arts madman from killing anymore good men. Throw in a subplot with Logan's stepson to tug at the viewers' heart strings every fifteen minutes or so and you've more or less got the movie nailed down.
Norris' acting is on par with most of his work up to this point in his career, meaning it isn't great and that he's performance in the movie is more defined by his skills as an action hero than his abilities as a thespian. And that's okay. You don't go to a Chuck Norris movie for great acting, you go to a Chuck Norris movie for great ass-kicking. And A Force Of One delivers enough of that to keep things entertaining and fun, even if, ultimately, we wind up wanting to see Norris' character given more to do and given more action scenes to strut his stuff in.
Norris is joined here by Ron O'Neal (of Superfly fame), Clu Gulager (immortalized in Return Of The Living Dead) and Bill ‘Superfoot' Wallace (of Los Angeles Streetfighter) so there's an interesting cast of supporting actors in this film. Top-billed Jennifer O'Neill, who horror fans will recognize from David Cronenberg's classic Scanners, delivers a more convincing and interesting performance than anyone else in the movie. Her character is also given more to do and is better written than most of the others, but to give her credit where credit is due, she's pretty solid here.
The production values are okay, if never amazing. The cinematography is fine, but it never ‘wows' you and the film, at times, uses too much slow motion in some of the fight sequences. The score is decent, but never amazing, but the location work is pretty strong and director Paul Aaron paces the movie pretty well.
Again, while Chuck isn't the most inspired of thespians, he does a pretty decent job in the action scenes, even if the more dramatic moments (those with his step son specifically) fall a little bit flat. He makes up for all of that in the final fight scene. Where he and Wallace showdown, the action hits hard and fast in this brawl and when all the dust settles, A Force Of One is an above average late seventies Americanized martial arts film if a few steps away from a stone cold classic.
Kino brings A Force Of One to region A Blu-ray on a 25GB disc with the ninety-four minute feature taking up just under 30GBs of space on the 50GB disc and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Generally speaking, this is a pretty nice transfer. Detail is quite strong, easily improving over the previous DVD editions that have come out over the years in a pretty big way. Colors look nice and natural and there's some pretty nice depth noticeable in the image. The elements used for the transfer were clearly in good shape, there's very little print damage here, though the film's natural grain is retained and there are some small white specks noticeable here and there, nothing major, just very minor stuff. Compression artifacts, noise reduction and edge enhancement are a never an issue. We get pretty strong shadow detail here as well. Overall, the transfer is a strong one.
The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. The track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and for an older mono mix for a low budget film from the early seventies, it sounds pretty solid. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is always clean and easy to hear.
Extras kick off with a commentary track that comes courtesy of action film historians Brandon Bentley and Mike Leader. They get into the details of the casting, how O'Neill is top-billed over Norris, Norris' relationship with the film's producers, the quality and pedigree of the cast and screenplay, where Norris' career was at during this point, the different fight scenes, Norris' ability to just basically play himself, the advertising and promotion of the film, what the different cast members bring to their roles and quite a bit more.
The disc also includes an audio commentary track from director Paul Aaron, who notes that he hasn't watched the movie in a while when the track starts. From there, he goes on to deliver a pretty scene specific break down of his experiences making the movie, talking about the skateboarding scene that opens the film and how he's still in touch with the young actor who did it, what it was like working with Norris and the other cast members, shooting the entire move on location in San Diego, what went into staging the fight scenes, how he came to direct the movie in the first place and why he agreed to do it, how his background filming and staging dance came in handy for this project and the use of violence in the movie.
Additionally we get a fifteen minute archival featurette on the making of A Force Of One that includes interviews with producer Alan Belkin, director Paul Aaron, head of production Jean Higgins, actor Clu Gulager, composer Richard Halligan and a few other executives. They cover the film's box office success, shooting in San Diego, casting the picture, Norris' presence, coming up with the story and more.
Finishing up the extra features on the disc are a couple of TV spots for the feature, a TV spot for The Octagon/Force Of One, a few radio spots for the feature, a trailer for the feature, a few bonus trailers (for the Chuck Norris starring The Octagon, Good Guys Wear Black, An Eye For An Eye, Code Of Silence, Hero And The Terror and for the Jennifer O'Neill starring The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud), menus and chapter selection options.
It's also worth pointing out that this release comes packaged with a slipcover.
A Force Of One isn't the best film Chuck Norris has ever made but it's a decent enough action/thriller made with a pretty solid cast and highlighted by some pretty strong action set pieces. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release gives the film a very nice presentation and provides a few solid extra features as well. Recommended for Norris devotees.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.