Force: Five (1981)


Force: Five (1981)- * *1\2

Directed by: Robert Clouse

Starring: Richard Norton, Amanda Wyss, Bong Soo Han, Peter Maclean, Joe Lewis, Sonny Barnes, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Pam Huntington, and Mel Novak

Reverend Rhee (Han) is a cult leader who, along with his devoted disciples, is sequestered away on a remote island. When Senator Forrester (MacLean) wants to rescue his daughter from the cult, he calls in "The Best" - i.e., a team of five high-kickin' Martial Arts fighters comprised of Jim Martin (Lewis), Lockjaw (Barnes), Billy Ortega (Urquidez), Laurie (Huntington), and Ezekiel (Norton). Will our quintuplet of action heroes exfiltrate the girl? Or will they fall to the hands of a man known only as The Assassin (Novak)?

Coming hot on the heels of the Jim Jones Guyana tragedy, which occurred in November of 1978, Force: Five reimagines the tale if Benny the Jet, Richard Norton, and the rest of gang showed up at Jonestown and saved the day. It's also reminiscent of other newsworthy cults of the time, such as the Rajneesh group, which is what the Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country is all about. However, Force: Five also a comedy, complete with a Kill and Kill Again (1981) vibe, or a certain A-Team sensibility. Imdb.com even claims it's a remake of Hot Potato (1976). Which would explain why it reminded us so much of...Hot Potato.

While it's ostensibly rated R, it feels very PG in its execution. The triumph of the Robert Clouse standout Gymkata (1985) isn't exactly threatened here, because Force: Five contains more than enough stupidity, but the stuntwork is very good, and there are some amusing "classic 1981 drive-in" Kung-Fu fights along the way. But there are long stretches with actionless moments, which slow things down.

It was nice to see a young Richard Norton, who looks alarmingly like Matthew McConaughey from Dazed and Confused (1993) here. It really could be his doppelganger. Bob Schott as Carl is a classic meathead, and it was nice to see Amanda Wyss, no matter for how short a time, here as well. Wyss has been in an impressive number of 80's classics, including A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Better Off Dead (1985), and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), among others. This was so early in her career, she was credited as Mandy Wyss. Interestingly, she was on the short-lived TV series Jessica Novak, and Force: Five has Mel Novak. Coincidence?

Anyway, Force: Five is a bit like a cross between Never Say Die (1994) and Catch the Heat (1987). The former for the cult aspect, and the latter for the "Karate Comedy" aspect. It all opens with a funky theme song and it's perfect for the drive-ins and grindhouses of the early 80's. It shouldn't be confused with Heroes Three (1983).

Also not to be confused with the 1975 TV movie Force Five (note the missing colon), this Force: Five was released on a Media tape during the golden era of VHS. Overall, it has some decent moments but there's really no "wow factor" here. The cast is good, and it's all very competent, but a little something extra really would have fleshed it all out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Port Film Co-op said...

My one sentece review would be "Robert Clouse sucks". Enter The Dragon was obviously good because of influence of others over production .. Clouse never made a good martial arts film again, despite making around a dozen.

Ty said...

A bit harsh but we see where you're coming from, but Ironheart is fun