Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In short: Tactical Force (2011)

A quartet of irresponsible meathead LA Swat cops (Steve Austin, Michael Jai White, Lexa Doig and Steve Bacic) earn themselves a bit of a refresher training run in one of those mini complexes of empty warehouses beloved of all cheap-o action films.

Unfortunately, these warehouses are also where a crook named Kenny (Michael Eklund) has hidden a mysterious McGuffin, and where said Kenny now has trouble with two different groups of gangsters, one lead by Russian gangster Demetrius (Michael Shanks), the other by African Italian Lampone (Adrian Holmes). Quickly, our under-armed cops are finding themselves in the middle of a siege situation, with various double-crosses between the gangsters adding a bit more danger and possibility to the situation.

Now, if there’s one thing less promising than a direct-to-DVD action movie starring Steve Austin it must be one that also happens to be a comedy. So colour me surprised when – after a pretty horrible first ten minutes – I found myself mostly amused by Adamo P. Coltraro’s Tactical Force. Sure, Austin is – as always – not very good, what with his generally wooden acting and his for an action hero very stiff physical performance (I suspect the ex-wrestler curse of back damage?), but he’s at least not horrible. Plus, unlike in every other Austin film I’ve seen, this one doesn’t have a scene where he holds an “America, fuck yeah” monologue.

Then there’s the little fact that the rest of the cast is really fun to watch, with Shanks, Holmes and Eklund hamming it up lovingly while White and Doig are their usual dependable likeable selves (so much so I don’t really see much of a reason why White’s and Austin’s roles shouldn’t have been swapped). While the script isn’t exactly full of scintillating dialogue, it does time its bargain basement Tarrantino-isms quite well. Why, I even found myself laughing at some of them!

And even though the film is clearly pretty darn cheaply done, Coltraro does make the most out of his miniscule budget, with some finely timed and decently staged fights, as well as an absurd yet played straight mini car chase on the empty warehouse lot that is much more fun to watch than this sort of thing by all rights should be. Fitting the economical plot, Coltraro’s direction is clean and straightforward in a classical budget style, without too many annoying editing effects, depending on a cast and stunt performers who actually know what they’re doing, and there’s no love for the teal and you know what colour (or rather lack of colour) scheme direct-to-DVD films love even more than their more costly brethren.

While the resulting film isn’t a masterpiece by any means, it delivers much more than you can normally expect of a film like it.

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