Deadly Force

Director: Paul Aaron                                       
Wings Hauser, Joyce Ingalls, Paul Shenar

The B-movie never died; it just moved to video. And with now dozens of B movie outfits out there, it's bigger than ever. Even better than ever in some areas, for you can now do a lot more on a low budget than you could do years before. Though during the early 80s, there was a brief period when the B-movie existed both on video, and still in theaters. Deadly Force was one of those movies made during that period, and that possibly explains its frequent schizo feel. It was made for theaters, yet it has a made-for-TV look and feel to it. And the scripting plays out exactly like an inferior action script from any small made-for-video company of the 90s. But what's really disappointing about this movie is that it has a good pedigree. For starters, this movie's lead role is played by Wings Hauser, a pretty cool B-movie actor who in the previous year gave a now legendary performance as a psychotic pimp in the deserved cult classic Vice Squad. And, in fact, the people behind Deadly Force (including one of the screenwriters) also made Vice Squad. So what went wrong?

Let's start with Hauser. After his career defining role in Vice Squad  (and most of his career playing other psychotic bad guys), it might seem both strange and out of place for him to play a good guy. Actually, he manages to hit the right note - some of the time. Much of the time, especially in the first half of the movie, he growls, gnashes his teeth, bulges his eyes until they almost pop out of his sockets, and seems to have a permanent layer of sweat on his skin. Compared to him, Dirty Harry is as calm as Sherlock Holmes. Since Hauser does manage to act reasonable some of the time, the blame here goes to the director - for not restraining Hauser, and for not keeping Hauser more or less around the same kind of performance throughout the movie.

Hauser isn't also to blame for the kind of character he's playing. He plays "Stoney" Cooper, an ex-L.A. police officer (kicked off the force for his behavior, of course) now residing in New York, doing odd freelance work and getting drunk while playing the piano. After a friend's daughter in L.A. is killed by the mysterious "X" serial killer, he flies to L.A. to help his friend out, and to generally piss off everyone else in the city. His simple presence pisses off his former captain (Lincoln Kilpatrick, playing essential the same role he'd later start playing in TV's Matt Houston that same year), who spouts out standard clichés like, "We do things strictly by procedure!" and "Get out! Go away!" While investigating on the streets, Cooper gets the attention of his old friends by unorthodox ways, like sneaking up behind on one friend and yanking him several feet back with a tug on the hair, and later slapping that same friend. And inevitably, there's Cooper's ex-wife, who of course hates his guts and swears at him. It's pretty understandable, since one of the first things he says to her is, "You look great. Lost weight?" Of course, he invites himself in his place, despite her dredging up the old "The good old days are over" line - but can she resist his sweaty charm for long? Of course not. I'm always amazed in movies like this, when a woman who has been seething in anger and resentment for such a long period of time, will soon melt into butter when reintroduced to that ol' obnoxious charm.

So we have an actor not in check, and saddled with a pretty unlikable character - two strikes so far. But what about the stuff in-between? The slickly made Vice Squad had no nudity or real sex, but it at least had some decent action and violence, as well as a fair amount of suspense. Deadly Force is professionally made, but it looks and feels like it was made by the wrong professionals. The look and feel comes across like those of an Aaron Spelling TV show of the same period - polished, but without any grit. The fact that Aaron chose to film in some surprisingly dull L.A. locations makes things worse. The piano score also seems lifted from some typically inane TV detective show. It's hard for the movie to generate any pow if its tone makes it seem like one of Charlie's Angels is about to pop into the frame. The sex and nudity aspects here are nothing special, except for those people who want to see Hauser take off his clothes (which he does more than once.) Was there at one point of time an audience for lengthy shots of Hauser's sweaty buns?

The supposed trump card of the movie - the action - is handed in a very disappointing fashion. For one thing, there isn't a great deal of action in the movie - most of the movie is filled with Hauser engaged in endless chat with various people concerning the case. In fact, the movie has to bring in the killer to add to his body counts throughout the movie, in order to add some life with his application of death. (Interestingly, though the killer is said to be unpicky about his targets, the victims of his that we actually get to see are all women.) There are some interesting bits where Stoney actually tries to avoid violence in a situation, and trying to solve things more peacefully (Near the beginning of the movie, he actually bribes a human bomb to call off his plans.)  In another movie, I might applaud such actions, but Deadly Force is so deadly dull, this is an action movie where I was actually wanting some gratuitous action instead of brains! Deadly Force is nothing that you haven't seen before on your TV set. Why pay several dollar for a rental when you don't even have to leave your house to get bored out of your skull?

Check for availability on Amazon (Blu-Ray)

See also: Mutant, Keaton's Cop, Nightmare At Noon