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  Force: Five What A Load Of Bull
Year: 1981
Director: Robert Clouse
Stars: Joe Lewis, Bong Soo Han, Sonny Barnes, Richard Norton, Benny Urquidez, Ron Hayden, Bob Schott, Pam Huntington, Michael Prince, Peter MacLean, Amanda Wyss, Tom Villard, Matthew Novak, Dennis Mancini, Patricia Alice Albrecht, Edith Fields, Kathryn Greer
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Reverend Moon - sorry, Reverend Rhee (Bong Soo Han) now leads a thousand strong religious cult from his base on a remote island, and he's always looking for more recruits as he has big plans for his disciples - world changing plans. However, there are those determined to upset his applecart and prevent what could be a disaster, so to nip it in the bud a sniper is dispatched to get the Reverend in his sights as the self-styled holy man speaks to his congregation. Just as the would-be killer is about to pull the trigger, a burly henchman appears and starts throwing him around the room; soon the assassin is strapped to a table and tortured by acupuncture as the Reverend demands to know who sent him...

That person is Stark (Michael Prince) and he has a score to settle with the villain, so assembles a force of six professional fighters who naturally become known as Force: Five, that makes perfect sense, right? Anyway, what you had here, as the presence of Robert Clouse on directing duties may well have indicated, was another American attempt to craft an Enter the Dragon, and one which predictably failed to find the globe-conquering influence that the Bruce Lee epic had. Instead of him (he was dead, after all) a collection of martial artists were brought together to show what they could do, led by world champion kickboxer Joe Lewis in one of his few acting roles, and one of this yet fewer leads.

If you could call it a lead, since apparently with the producers recognising that he was not the strongest of thespians, he was very much part of an ensemble which included Benny Urquidez, aka The Jet, who gave Jackie Chan such a hard time in the thrilling climax to Wheels on Meals, yet here gets a couple of kicks and punches in before flattening anyone who dares to stand up to him, as all the other heroes do in this. Therein lies a problem, as if you hired these combatants best known for their skills you might be hoping for some kind of showcase for those talents, making for disappointment when all the good guys had to clobber was a bunch of anonymous extras who didn't appear to be able to fight their way out of the proverbial paper bag: it was just too one sided.

When Bruce Lee starred in Enter the Dragon, part of what made it essential viewing was that he was careful to ensure he had opponents who would match his abilities, thereby offering the audience a real display of just how exciting martial arts could be on the big screen. With this, on the other hand, and for that matter with far too many pretenders from outside East Asia, what you had was the hero pausing briefly to thump a ne'erdowell we've never heard of before and won't again before moving on to the next one, a line up of personality-free cannon fodder until if you were lucky, you would get something approximating a decent fight. At least Bong Soo Han was pretty handy when it came to this arena, best known then and now for The Kentucky Fried Movie, but he was better there.

Still, there were various quirks to take in, such as the villainous preacher's method of getting rid of any insurgents: he didn't put a bullet betwixt their eyes or anything like that, nope, he had a real liking for the astrological sign Taurus so what more obvious method of execution than placing his enemies in a "labyrinth" (actually a couple of corridors) with a live and angry bull, which promptly chases them down then gores them on its horns? He's quite the one for the novelty death is this chap, as he also sends his minions after Stark (having already broken his legs some time before) and then pulls him apart like a wishbone tied between a concrete pillar and a car, not that we see the resulting mess, though we have no doubt it was nasty. Throwing in a prison break and a pretend helicopter malfunction to ensure the goodies hang around on the island under cover of the visit of a senator (Peter MacLean, who seems to think he's in a comedy), but which also ensures the best characters are sidelined with that aircraft for the rest of the movie, and you had middling amusements. Music by William Goldstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Clouse  (1928 - 1997)

American director who, after directing Darker Than Amber, settled into a string of martial arts thrillers starting with the Bruce Lee favourite Enter the Dragon. His other films include Golden Needles, Black Belt Jones, The Ultimate Warrior, Game of Death, The London Connection, The Big Brawl, camp classic Gymkata, China O'Brien and its first sequel.

 
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