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Move right along now. Nothing to see here...
on 28 June 2014
Still best known as a former world champion and for fighting (and losing to) Bruce Lee in Rome's Coliseum in Way of the Dragon at the time, 1979's A Force of One doesn't exactly tax fledgling action star Chuck Norris' limited acting abilities, casting him as a former champion who teaches martial arts who finds himself drawn into a murder case when he agrees to teach various cops self-defence after they start getting killed in the line of duty. Unfortunately his ass-kicking expertise is largely taken on trust for much of the film, which puts more emphasis on his input in the murder investigation - such as the dubious conclusion that the only people capable of breaking a victim's neck must be former Special Forces operatives with martial arts training - than his ability to hit people, which he does surprisingly rarely: following the Bruce Lee formula of having its hero resisting resorting to violence until pushed too far, with only three fights and one kill, this probably has the lowest body count of any of his films. Nor is the final fight, largely held in the ring (who could possibly guess that the killer is his upcoming opponent in a martial arts bout?), particularly well staged or directed. Instead for most of the running time it's a fairly average 70s low-budget cop movie with a decent enough supporting cast (Jennifer O'Neil, Ron O'Neal, Clu Gulager) to try to compensate for the leading man's limitations but stymied by join-the-dots plotting despite a script co-written by French Connection Oscar winner and creator of Shaft Ernest Tidyman. Aimed fairly and squarely at the grindhouse and drive-in circuit, its ambitions are modest and it just about passes muster as a Saturday night with a few beers movie, but it's pretty forgettable stuff.
Still, the Blu-ray offers a decent widescreen transfer and good extras: a making of featurette that covers the replacement of original director Ted Post after he dropped out in pre-production and replacement director Paul Aaron's rewrites of the ailing Tidyman's script, a somewhat self-congratulatory documentary on the rise and fall of exploitation producers American Cinema, from the days when they were a small outfit practically taking their films around from cinema to cinema and scraping money together from tax shelter investors to their downfall after getting too big too fast, a director's commentary, TV spot and theatrical trailer.