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  Force of One, A Too Cool For Kickboxing SchoolBuy this film here.
Year: 1979
Director: Paul Aaron
Stars: Chuck Norris, Jennifer O'Neill, Clu Gulager, Ron O'Neal, Bill Wallace, Eric Laneuville, James Whitmore Jr, Clint Ritchie, Pepe Serna, Ray Vitte, Taylor Lacher, Lisa James, Chu Chu Malave, Kevin Geer, Eugene Butler, Charles Cyphers, Aaron Norris
Genre: Thriller, Martial Arts
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two cops from the narcotics division are following a teenager on a skateboard from their car, convinced he has something to do with the distribution of heroin in their Californian town. Their lead takes them to a warehouse where they uncover the drugs, but before they can do anything about it they are attacked by a masked man who kills them with his martial arts moves. After their bodies are found in the river, the head of the division, Dunne (Clu Gulager) assembles his staff and lets them know the state of play; one of the cops, Mandy Rust (Jennifer O'Neill) suggests that her colleagues could have been killed by an expert in martial arts, and eventually they all agree to investigate that line...

A Force of One, with its cool title, was a film that solidified star Chuck Norris's position as a leading man and proved that a Western film that relied on well-choreographed action for its thrills could be a lucrative idea, particularly, as Chuck and countless successors found out, on home video. That said, it still can't qute shake off that "episode of a cop show" feel, and it's only the fight scenes that lift it above the ordinary. Written by Shaft creator Ernest Tidyman from a story by him and Pat Johnson, it's all fairly run of the mill for the most part, but has a social conscience to distinguish it as well.

How does Chuck (named after his ability to "chuck" people about) get involved with all this? He's champion kickboxer (typecast already?) Matt Logan, who we see plying his trade for a good ten minutes in a match at the start, and conveniently enough he also runs a martial arts school in town where the police go to, first as part of their investigation, but later to train there so they don't get caught out by any head crunching baddies. Matt is persuaded to help after he sees the results of heroin addiction as shown by their effects on a fifteen-year-old prostitute, and soon all the narcotics division are learning some handy combat moves. A department of kickboxing cops sounds like a great idea for a film, but one that sadly remains unexplored here.

One thing about this film is that it is, shall we say, leisurely paced, and it doesn't help that every time someone finds out more about the drugs conspiracy, they get bumped off. As for that social conscience, well, Matt has adopted a kid (Eric Laneuville) who he is teaching kickboxing after the kid's mother dies of an overdose, so we know he's on the level. Unfortunately, it's pretty obvious that the kid is being set up for a fall, and all the excuse that Matt needs for revenge, so that's not especially progressive, is it? The fighting is mostly confined to the ring, but you do get to enjoy a bout between Chuck and another real life champion, Bill Wallace, who turns out to be the villain. If only their climactic fight wasn't shot in murky darkness we might get a better idea of how talented they are. With A Force of One, as with many Norris movies, you pretty much know what to expect from the start, so if you like this kind of thing, you won't be disappointed. Music by Dick Halligan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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