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Special Forces
(2003)

Director: Isaac Florentine
Cast:
Marshall R. Teague, Tim Abell, Danny Lee Clark


It may be understandable that if you have been reading this web site for some time, you have some idea of what I am like in real life. But at the same time, long time readers of this web site might have some misconception about what I am like. Since I have my own web site and have been running it by myself for so long, there is a chance that you might think that I am a take-charge kind of guy outside of the Internet, one that likes to be some kind of leader or major authority figure. If you came to that conclusion, I hate to burst your bubble, but you would be wrong. Outside of this web site, I not only like to be a follower, but I try to avoid joining up with anything that may have dire consequences should I make a bad decision. To tell the truth, I can't understand why there are people that, with many positions in life that require some kind of leadership and/or authority, would join up willingly with these positions. Let me give you some examples. One such position is being some sort of medical doctor. Sure, you would be admired by many people, but what pain - people are constantly coming to you complaining about one problem or another, and they expect you to totally fix everything! And if you should greatly slip up just once, the medical board could finish your career right there and then. Another position in society that can bring a lot of grief is being a politician. Certainly, the position of controlling many people's lives can be some kind of legal aphrodisiac. But at what price? You would most likely not have a lot of privacy, with every move you make under great scrutiny. And even if you are good at politics, a slip up in other aspects of your life - like your home life - could finish your career for good.

Related to political employment are some positions that are more or less enforcement of rules and laws. For example, there is the position of being a police officer. I don't think I have to get into the various stresses of the job, from spending time in training and education to what may be expected of you once you're in the field. But there is one other enforcement position that I would like to talk about, this one in length. And that is the position of being in the military. Now, I have never been in the military in real life, nor have I had much chance to observe as an outsider some form of the military in real life. But after seeing so many movies and television shows about the military, I am surprised that people - who have no doubt seen these same movies and television shows - would willingly join the military. Take the initial experience with joining the military, basic training. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't like to join an organization that would pair me up with people that would call me and my fellow newbies "maggots" and the worst soldiers they have ever seen. (It seems that with every year, new recruits always seem to be the worst soldiers ever - is mankind slowly devolving?) But let's say that you manage to get through basic training and become a bona fide member of the military. Well, you still don't have a lot of choice. Even if you manage to get promoted to a considerably high position, you would most likely still get orders from some higher authority. And the orders could be anything from moving to a different military base to going out in the field to battle some sort of threat.

(Don't worry - I'm about to get to the main topic I want to discuss.) Anyway, with so much potential heat coming from being a normal warrior in the military, I wonder about so-called "Special Forces" in the military. I'm talking about such groups like The Green Berets, The Delta Force, Top Gun, and the Navy Seals. I wonder about the people who would willingly join such Special Special ForcesForce groups. For one thing, in order to qualify, you first have had to have gone through all that tough basic training earlier to become part of the regular armed forces. Then you have to go through even more - and tougher - training to become a full-fledged member of whatever Special Force you want to become part of. And if you should become a member of some Special Force branch, it is even more likely you will be called to go out on the field to eradicate some kind of threat than some ordinary member of the military. Some day I would like to talk about these issues with some member of some Special Force - why would you subject yourself to all that grief, I would ask. Personally, I will stay with watching movies about Special Forces - much more pleasant, if you ask me. Of course, the movie Special Forces is about Special Forces, but what really got me interested in watching it was that it was directed by Isaac Florentine, the skilled action director who's made awesome action movies such as Ninja and Bridge Of Dragons. The plot: There is a former Soviet controlled country by the name of Muldonia that is ruled by one Hrankoff (Mike Saad, Robot Jox). An American journalist named Wendy (Danielle Deutscher, Hang Time) is visiting the country one day, and photographs members of the country's military, an action that has her get captured by Rafendek (Eli Danker, A Gnome Named Gnorm), a member of the military who really runs the country. Word of this kidnapping gets to the western powers, and it's decided that a rescue mission is warranted. A band of Special Forces, lead by one Major Don Harding (Teague, Armageddon), is gathered, and soon makes its way into the country. During their journey to the military base where Wendy is being held, the Special Forces team stumbles upon Talbot (Scott Adkins, Ninja), the only surviving member of a British SAS team that went in before the American Special Forces. This is just one clue the Special Forces get that their assignment may be the most risky they've been assigned...

Special Forces was a production of B movie studio Nu Image, which with their sister company Millennium Films are the Cannon Films of the twenty-first century. Fans of films from Nu Image will no doubt know that they like to film the majority of their movies in Bulgaria, since filmmaking costs are a lot lower there that just about any other place. With Special Forces taking place in a (fictional) former Soviet-controlled country, you would think Bulgaria would be an appropriate place to film. But Nu Image decided with this movie to go the extra mile and move on up... by filming in Lithuania instead. I'm not sure why, but I have to say that the end results look for the most part pretty good in part due to the Lithuanian locations. Yes, the opening of the movie (set in Lebanon!) doesn't quite convince, to put it charitably, but when the story moves to Muldonia, director Florentine films in various places around Lithuania to good effect, from urban locations to the countryside. Of course, that would be easy for most directors, with Lithuania being an actual former Soviet controlled country. But Florentine also puts in considerable extra effort to convince the audience. The biggest and most obvious ways are with how he decorates the backgrounds. This can range from military equipment to dozens of extras parading around in the background. But Florentine also puts in little details throughout, like Muldonian soldiers having a patch displaying their country's flag sewn on their uniforms, for example. While I'm not saying that Special Forces looks as slick and expensive as a major Hollywood studio movie, you can tell that Florentine and his crew managed to squeeze every last penny out of their very low budget (less than $2 million, according to one source I came across.)

True, there are some other shabby moments here and there, such as with the use of obvious stock footage as well as a few scenes with helicopters that are clearly CGI creations. But such moments are very brief, and the movie quickly recovers its facade. Florentine seems to have known where most of the money and time budgeted to him should be spent on, and that is with the movie's action sequences. To get straight to the point, the action sequences in Special Forces are extremely well done. The superb action comes in two different way throughout the movie, the first being with the expected wartime combat techniques (guns, explosives, etc.), but also with the addition of martial arts action. I'll first take a look at the former kind of action. Clearly a lot of the budget went to ammunition, bloody squibs, and explosive devices, because there is a lot of that stuff on display here. Despite all this mayhem, the warfare could still have been rendered boring with uninspired direction, but Florentine is careful enough to not just point the camera at this stuff. Florentine keeps the action fresh and exciting, whether he's filming the Special Forces fending off dozens of machine gun-wielding attackers in a forest, or showing people falling from twenty-five feet in the air onto the clearly unpadded solid ground below them. It certainly helps considerably that this warfare gets mixed with a considerable amount of martial arts, which I'll talk about next. If you have a taste for the style of martial arts found in Hong Kong movies, then you'll really enjoy the martial arts in Special Forces. With the help of choreographer Akihiro Noguchi (who also choreographed the fights in Florentine's Ninja), the martial arts here have the great trademarks of the fights in Florentine's other action movies, such as a refrain from rapid editing, sporadic but effective use of slow motion, and the participants using great speed and force with their movements.

The climax of the movie, in fact, consists of showcasing two simultaneous one-on-one fights, and boy oh boy, this sequence alone makes Special Forces worth a look despite some serious flaws you'll have to sit through first. For one thing, as great as the action is, there is a problem with it. After the opening action sequence set in Lebanon, viewers will have to wait almost a half hour before the movie gets to the next moment that can be confidently called an action sequence. Actually, that might not have been so bad had there been enough care taken during this half hour (and other places in the movie) to fix the next problem to be found in the movie, and that being that the characters in the movie are pretty weakly written. We learn little about the Special Forces members, for one thing. We learn one member's fiancÚ just left him, and that Major Harding has a vendetta against Rafendek for a past incident, but that's it. It's becomes somewhat hard to care about these guys since they come across mostly as a faceless mob. Some of the actors do try their best despite their weakly written characters. Eli Danker, playing the chief adversary, does manage to come across as a real slimeball. And Scott Adkins, while not a great actor, uses charisma and enthusiasm to give extra spark to his scenes. Despite such efforts by the cast and with director Florentine's hard work, the screenplay also fails when it comes to the central idea of the movie. Would the United States government really send a Special Forces unit into a foreign and hostile country to rescue one solitary journalist? I doubt it. Despite problems like those to be found in the finished product, I have to admit that in the end I did find Special Forces to be entertaining. But I feel I should point out that I sat down to watch it in a mood where I wanted more than anything else to be entertained by numerous and well done action sequences, as well as eye candy. If you want to see something with a lot more substance than that, you might want to hold off watching this movie until you are in a more forgiving mood.

(Posted January 20, 2019)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Bridge Of Dragons, Delta Force One, Ninja

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