"I love Lethal Force. I really do. I watched it three times in a month on the oh-so-hated VHS format, and even cared enough to REWIND the tape!"
- Sergio Martorelli
Lethal Force (2001)
AKA: Alvin Ecarma's Lethal Force
Director: Alvin Ecarma
Producer: Cash Flagg Jr., Alvin Ecarma
Writer: Alvin Ecarma
Cast: Frank Prather, Patricia Williams, Cash Flagg Jr., Andrew Hewitt, J. Patrick Collins Jr., Allison Jacobson, Ron Lincoln, Lori Boyd, Judy Chen, Jen Dunkelberger, Donald Vick, Demetrius Parker, Cris Dinwiddie, Mikal Wellon, Duane Rouch
Running Time: 62 min.
Plot: After his wife is murdered and his son kidnapped, a gangster is forced to betray his best friend who is also a deadly killer, in this raucous, off-the-wall satire that is to action films what Scream (1996) is to horror movies.
Official Site: Lethal Force
SERGIO MARTORELLI'S REVIEW: C'mon guys, do we REALLY need Hollywood? Do we? If so, what for? To churn out yearly, multimillionaire can-you-top-this blockbusters filled with enough CGI to keep Steve Jobs employed for at least 10 more years? (Yeah, right, so you think they use Windows to render Star Wars movies...).
With the budget from Armageddon, we could fly Ben Affleck into space for real and leave him there, just like Laika (as an animal lover, I'm still pissed at what they did to the poor bitch; somebody has to pay!). THAT would be cool. But noooo! Today's idea of "cool" is show a dude frozen in mid-air while the camera run rings around him. Whoa. O the drama! O the pathos! Oh, cut that crap. Ben-Hur's chariot race was achieved with horse manure and Moses in a loincloth, and still tops anything the Watchoo Bros. can throw at us.
I won't miss Hollywood, that bloated neon vampire who sucked dry the talents of John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam. I have indie filmmakers to keep me company and give me some IDEAS for a change. Or just plain fun, as is the case of Alvin Ecarma's Lethal Force.
Here's the plot: when his son is kidnapped by crippled crimelord Mal Locke (Andrew Hewitt, looking like Peter Fonda on a Trigun cospay), the not-so-good guy Jack (Frank Prather) is forced to sell out his best friend and homo lover Savitch (Cash Flagg, Jr., a Bruce Li with baby fat).
You see, Savitch is a bad mothershafter. He's indestructible. He's faster than a speeding building. He has powers beyond of the mere mortal man, including a cool way to reload pistols. And as the perfect prick he is, he made a lot of enemies along the way including mistery woman Rita, played by Pam Grier's lookalike Patricia Williams.
Aided by an army of faceless goons (literally!) and a fez-wearing lesbian, Mal finally captures Savitch and proceeds to torture him with power tools. But Savitch, as we already established, is a badass mofo who can only be killed by the pure of heart (or something like that, judging by the ending). He breaks free, kicks some more ass in true Lone Wolf and Cub style, and then goes after his traitor friend Jack. Uh-oh. During the final confrontation, only one will survive and it's not who you think.
Familiar ground here, right? Right. But Ecarma knows that. There's hardly a second without any mention to some cult thingie, from Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! to Wonder Woman. Heck, there's even a line lifted from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman! But, and here's the catch: the homages don't get in the way of the storytelling. They ARE the storytelling. The entire movie is a send-up to the good ole days of Drive-In fun, and a hell of a joy ride it is! While Kevin Williamson would call attention to the homages and stop the narrative dead on the tracks, Ecarma just goes on with the in-jokes and leaves to the viewer the task of spotting all the references. Alas, Ecarma ran the extra mile by promoting his flick with a 70's-styled poster and a line ofÉ action figures! I kid you not. Check the official site, read the production diaries and be prepared to laugh your hemorrhoids off.
I love Lethal Force. I really do. I watched it three times in a month on the oh-so-hated VHS format, and even cared enough to REWIND the tape! And not just because this little gem, shot on film with a budget of 50.000 dollars, manages to blend every pop culture riff in unexpected ways. Nope. Ecarma gives us the most important thing since Daguerre moved his first picture: likeable characters. This ain't no There's Something About Mary, where we root for Ben Stiller to lose his gregory pecker before he has the chance to boink Cameron Diaz. No. We care. In Lethal Force, we root for Jack to save his son. We want Savitch alive and kicking ass in the sequel, instead of being replaced by Antonio Banderas or Don "The Dragon" Wilson. We want to see Jack and Savitch patch up their differences with a big wet french kiss. Sure, the acting is not top notch, but it's convincing at least in a cartoony way. That's not a bad thing. Remember how Bugs and Daffy had more screen charisma than Bill Murray in Space Jam? Whoops, there it is.
At little more than 70 minutes, Lethal Force moves pretty fast. It drags just a little during the nightclub sequence (c'mon...those gals are cute, but they sure can't dance!), and even that is redeemed by the gorgeous legs of Jen Dunkelberger as the G-String Kickboxer. Actually she's billed "New Girl Suzy", but I like "G-String Kickboxer" better.
The low-budget fight scenes are pretty good as well, with almost perfect editing and those goofy sound effects we know and love from hong-kong-fu flicks. The fights were coreographed by multi-talented Eric Thornett, who also plays über-baddie "Psycho Bowtie" and directed a cool indie film called 23 HOURS. And, as any decent action film should, LF delivers gore galore, with plenty of decapitations, crucifications, trepanations, castrations and exploding heads, not to mention the blood-squirting eyeball gag from the trailer (BTW, looks like Sean Connery's cameo was left in the cutting room floor; watch the trailer and you'll know what I'm talking about!).
Lethal Force has only one fault: it's not yet available on the home video market. But thanks to the success the thing is making on festivals all over the...uh, USA, and the high scores it's getting at the IMDb polls (last time I checked it was scoring 9.9 points more than The Matrix!) that soon will be corrected. Well, at least I hope so. I do.
SERGIO MARTORELLI'S RATING: 9/10