The Dudikoff abides.
Former Secret Service agent Matt Hunter (Michael Dudikoff, American Ninja) isn’t asking for much in his life.Granted, he’s a finely-tuned weapon of death and mayhem, but these days, sipping a lemonade with his best friend and U.S. Senate candidate Larry Richards (Steve James) during the muggy Louisiana nights, is what’s best in life. Unfortunately, Hunter is going to be pressed into action when Richards becomes the target of Pentangle, a radical right-wing domestic terror group that seeks payback for a business deal gone awry.
As violence erupts and Hunter sees his loved ones gunned down in the street, it falls to him uncork his significant murder skills and take the fight to Pentangle on their home turf–the wretched, fetid bayou.
Avenging Force contains all the ingredients that I love in my bombastic hard-R beat’em-ups from the Golden Age of Testosterone. Adding a generous infusion of Dudikoff culminates in the perfect “second-tier” action movie, a concoction that lacked the star power and budget and marketing muscle of the Big Boys, yet boasted a few elements that would make bankrolling studio execs take pause, namely the wanton massacre of some guy’s kids and the over-the-top political posturing. But that’s what makes Avenging Force unique; it could never get made today.
Let’s break down the recipe:
A well-coiffured hero
Michael Dudikoff never quite broke through the way Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Seagal did, but for anyone with even a fleeting interest in the genre, this guy is familiar. Originally a comic actor who got his start on Happy Days, Dudikoff made the transition to action and proved to be a solid fit. While not an overwhelming beefcake presence like some of his peers, the guy glowered a lot and had a pretty kick-ass flattop. In my book, that’s all you need.
A ridiculous villain
Oh yes. These Pentangle guys are pretty awesome. A bunch of white dudes, hanging out in a lodge, espousing xenophobia and applauding each other’s endorsement of racism and genocide, and spending the weekends hunting human beings in the swamp. But the absolute best part about these a-holes? Their entire beef with Larry Richards and his family is because they wanted to build a chemical factory on a public park and Richards prevented that. Is that not the most ’80s villain plot you’ve ever heard?
Action scenes staged with zero regard for the comfort or safety of the actors.
It’s not as if these guys were endangering their lives by swinging on skyscraper I-beams or dashing in front of cars; no, in this case, the filmmakers went out of their way to make their performers’ lives miserable for a series of standard-issue fight scenes. The entire finale takes place in the rain-drenched swamp. As Dudikoff recounts in the accompanying interview, this led to innumerable leeches, the constant threat of water moccasins and an exotic illness that led to his skin flaking off.
Three you go: Avenging Force. Nothing really makes sense and the villains are hilarious cartoon cutouts, but crikey if that’s not what I look for in my gonzo old-school actioners. Dudikoff brings the charisma of a surfboard to the proceedings, but his willingness to get suplexed onto a stump filled with poisonous animals more than makes up for it.
Real nice Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The 1.85:1, 1080p HD transfer looks very, very good, boasting remarkable color and detailing for a thirty-year old release. The DTS 2.0 stereo mix won’t win any end-of-year audio awards, but it does the job cleanly and effectively. Extras: commentary with director Sam Firstenberg and Dudikoff, an introduction from Firstenberg and a brand new interview with Dudikoff.
Not Guilty. This is the best movie about Louisiana swamp murderers and chemical plant-enthusiasts you’ll see all week.