Scientists have worked tirelessly since the invention of Blu-ray looking for a way to capture the essence of Chuck Norris onto a high-definition disc. No matter how hard they tried though his fists, jaw and body hair refused to be contained long enough for the transfer to take. But finally, in the year of our Lord 2012, six years after the format’s debut… they’ve succeeded.
Seven of Chuck Norris’ classics are now available in HD.
A Force of One (1979) is the earliest of Chuck Norris’ films to hit Blu-ray, and it also has the lowest body count. Coincidence? Doubtful. You get the sense he’s still looking for his own groove here and was as interested in representing the sport of karate as he was in being an action star. And while it was his fourth lead role it’s actually the first to actually resemble a real (ie. professional) movie.
Norris plays Matt Logan, a karate teacher hired by the police to train them in the art of self defense. Why? Because a cop-killer is on the loose who’s been dispatching officers with deadly kung fu moves of course.
“We were all in the killing business, but murder?” [shakes head]
Chief Dunne (Clu Gulager) is tired, frustrated and angry. Two of his narco cops were killed while investigating a warehouse, but to make things worse they were killed with karate. Can you imagine a more embarrassing way for an officer of the law to go? Dunne can’t, so he seeks out the best instructor in the city limits to train his detectives. Matt Logan (Norris) is resistant at first because he’s hesitant for people to use karate as a weapon.
Unless those people are him.
Logan falls for the lone female cop with the foul porn star name, Mandy Rust (Jennifer O’Neill), and befriends the others under his tutelage. His real focus though remains split between mentoring his adopted son Charlie (Eric Laneuville) and his own upcoming fight with Sparks (Bill Wallace). He trains the cops via a singular training montage sequence, but when they press him for more help all he can offer is a profile of the killer based on his years of mustache grooming.
Observation: the murderer is breaking necks. Conclusion: a Special Forces guy from Vietnam is the murderer!
This being a Chuck Norris movie the people close to him live in constant risk of being violently murdered, and before long that’s just what happens. Logan’s hand is forced leading to a third act mano-a-mano brawl to the death with the killer.
A Force Of One is an odd entry in the Norris canon due to a severe lack of ass-kicking on the part of Norris. That doesn’t make it a bad movie necessarily, just a lesser Norris movie. On its own terms the film is an okay, albeit predictable, drama. The supporting cast is strong and filled with recognizable faces including O’Neill, Charles Cyphers, Ron O’Neal and the always awesome Gulager.
The script keeps things grounded most of the time, but what’s the deal with Logan’s deduction as to the killer’s identity? I don’t think Special Forces soldiers have the sole rights to neck-snapping. There’s no other connective tissue linking the crime to the killer, but Logan makes that leap as if it’s common sense.
The limited number of fight scenes wouldn’t be an issue at all if they were stellar in any way, but sadly the action here takes the opposite tact. Too much of the fights are shown in slow-motion, and while it may be a style choice from director Paul Aaron the suspicion is that he just doesn’t trust the fighters or the choreographers. Of course, the fights were choreographed by Norris and his brother Aaron, so make of that what you will.
And now, the only stats that matter:
- Chuck beats up – 3 guys!
- Chuck kills – 1 bad guy!
- Chuck gets shirtless at the – 9:10 mark!
A Force of One’s Blu-ray debut looks pretty damn good for a thirty-three year old movie. The image is sharp and clear and easily looks half its age. The special features include:
- How American Cinema Changed Hollywood Forever [27:58] – The head of American Cinema film production shares his company’s history, but while there are some fun facts here and there he never really convinces viewers that they changed much of anything.
- Making Of [15:28] – Cast and crew discuss the film’s production and share anecdotes. One of the producers tells a quick story involving a neck-snapping sound effect that threatened to earn the film an X-rating. She explains proudly how they finagled an R instead, but the movie is PG so…
- Trailer/TV spot
A Force Of One is far more of a drama than an action movie, and as such it stands apart from the usual Norris fare. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the viewer, but for the most part it works as engaging-enough entertainment. That said, a higher body count and better fight scenes would have been appreciated.
Buy A Force Of One on region-free Blu-ray from AmazonUK