ONE MAN’S JUSTICE aka ONE TOUGH BASTARD
from the director of Equilibrium
starring Brian Bosworth
This 1995 Bozploitation vehicle is on the more enjoyable end of the DTV action pictures I’ve seen. It’s not as awesome as Bosworth’s theatrical starring role STONE COLD, but director Kurt Wimmer’s slightly pretentious touch gives it the feel of an authentic ’80s action picture that Seagal or Chuck Norris might’ve made. Not the usual unwatchable crap you get on DTV, this is solid cable level filmatism.
The plot is a variation on a HARD TO KILL type of revenge deal. Bosworth is a drill instructor/hand-to-hand-combat teacher for the Army. Whether or not he will ever find a practical application for these fighting skills is anyone’s guess. He’s estranged from his wife but planning to work things out, and he has a little blonde daughter. Unfortunately, wife and daughter happen to be at a gas station where an ugly motherfucker named Marcus (Jeff Kober, the same guy who played Beserko in COYOTE MOON) is making a nefarious arms deal. The daughter witnesses the arms deal through the bushes so, under cell phone orders from a mysterious boss (all we see is the hoop ring on his nose) the bad guys massacre everybody at the gas station.
To make it more personal though, the Boz happens to be driving by singing to himself and sees that the police (who of course know him by his first name) are in a standoff at the gas station and he figures out his wife and kid are inside. He walks in unarmed and tries to talk them down, then beat them up. Oh, I get it, that’s what the fighting skills are for. He’s gonna be fighting in this movie. Pretty slick the way they slid that in there. Anyway despite his skills he ends up slumped over with two bullets in his chest.
Like Seagal in HARD TO KILL he wakes up from a coma. He’s one tough bastard, so it’s hard to kill him with a mere two bullets to the chest. I think his coma is 8 weeks instead of Seagal’s 7 years, and he looks freshly shaven instead of having a Rip Van Winkle beard. His daughter is still alive, but in a coma, and he wakes up just in time to see her die.
Earlier we saw him at work imitating R. Lee Ermey, but now apparently he’s on mourning/coma leave, so he doesn’t have to go to work and instead dedicates all his time to revenge. He remembers that the shooter had a bat tattoo on his neck, so he goes to every tattoo parlor in town and asks questions. (There are alot of montages in this movie, by the way.) On the trail to one man’s justice he meets a 12 year old drug courier named Mikey. Mikey’s a tough talking little kid who carries a piece and Marcus trusts him to carry an entire kilo bag of cocaine in his backpack. Actually it turns out to be rat poison (looks like powdered sugar to me) but still, it seems like he has made it high up the totem pole for a kid that young. The Doogie Howser of the drug game.
This seems to be a Wimmer touch, trying to show how bad the world is by making such a tiny little kid one of the main criminal characters and treating him almost like an adult. They might’ve gotten the idea from the movie FRESH, also about a young drug courier. But this kid reminds me a little more of Gary Coleman. Always saying adorably precocious things and pouting. While FRESH had a gritty and pretty believable look at ghetto drug dealers, this one takes place in a crazy multi-cultural movie world. In a montage that shows how Mikey has his ear to the streets and is able to spread a rumor for the Boz, he goes around giving pounds to mostly dorky white and Asian guys. One part he’s talking to two white guys, one tall skinny guy with round sunglasses and a beefy, sloppy guy with a goatee and backwards baseball cap. For a minute I was convinced this was a pre-MATRIX Wachowski Brothers cameo, but if that was true I’m sure someone else would’ve picked up on it by now.
There are two other main villains besides Marcus. There’s the drug lord Dexter Kane, played by MC Hammer (credited just as Hammer). He probaly filmed his whole role in an afternoon, but it’s cool because he gets to act tough and say ‘fuck’ once or twice, a good afternoon for a reverend. Then the main guy (the nose ring guy on the phone) is Bruce Payne as Agent Savak. This guy is a funny villain because he’s supposed to be an FBI agent but he has long hair and the nose ring. He always talks sarcastic-evil, drifting between some kind of Chicago and English accents. You know what he looks like — imagine Vinnie Jones playing Michael Bolton in a VH1 biopic. In fact, alot of the bad guys in this movie look like they could be the ugly bass player for some shitty metal band from the ’80s. And there’s a rival gang with some kind of hippie leader who looks alot like Carrot Top.
The action is okay. Boz does lots of kicking and punching and flipping people over. Because he was in the NFL he gets to ram a guy through a wall. He kind of fights like a pro-wrestler with a little bit of martial arts training. Also he gets to do some running. I think there was a part where he kicks a guy in the balls but I can’t remember for sure. If so he should’ve said “field goal!” Sort of in the tradition of DOUBLE TEAM, where Dennis Rodman makes random basketball references.
There is one exploding car in the movie, but not a car crash. Actually it’s better. Savak lights the end of a gas nozzle on fire and then uses it as a blowtorch. Before he lets ‘er rip his oneliner is, “How does Webster define ‘inferno’?” This guy is a nut.
There’s also alot of child endangerment in the movie. Mostly Mikey, who he gets involved in a fight with drug dealers, arms smugglers and corrupt federal agents. Then he talks to Mikey’s mom and doesn’t tell her anything about what’s going on. As a father himself you’d think he’d want her to know. But you know, even in the opening credits when his daughter is still alive he leaves her standing on the edge of a cliff with a stopwatch while he runs. If she had fallen off the cliff who would he have gotten revenge on then? Gravity? The rocks below? Man’s hubris?
During his quest for revenge Boz realizes that he’s setting a bad example for Mikey, who also wants revenge for the death of his friend. So in front of Mikey he makes a point of not taking the chance to shoot Marcus in the head, and what that gets him is handcuffed by Savak, beat up and thrown in jail on bogus charges. Mikey also watches as Savak and his men decide to leave the Boz alive, which will of course turn out to be a bad decision too. So right there are two concrete examples to show Mikey why he should go ahead and exact savage vengeance (or One Boy’s Justice).
Don’t worry though, Savak does end up dying and this is a definite highlight. It’s one of those slo-motion falling off a building deaths in the tradition of Hans Grueber. But Wimmer takes it to the next level by drawing it out longer than expected and showing it from multiple angles. The best is two businessmen smiling and joking with each other on their lunch break as this dipshit plummets in the background. Instead of the usual “landing on a car and smashing it, Wimmer has him fall through a glass ceiling into a yuppie cafe, where he lands on a piano and smashes it. There’s also a good shot of his blood pouring out over sheet music.
Like Seagal’s pictures do occasionally, this one has an odd use of animal sound effects. When he’s about to (almost) kill the man who murdered his family, you hear a hawk sound effect, along with some lines of dialogue from earlier in the movie. This makes sense because in the opening he pointed out a hawk to his daughter. But then there is the sound of a tiger growling. There was no tiger earlier in the movie. At least, not literally. I don’t know what the fuck that’s about.
IMDb lists “ONE TOUGH BASTARD” as the title of the movie, so hopefully it was released under that title somewhere in the world. In the US it’s ONE MAN’S JUSTICE and the cover just shows Bosworth’s face and gun with an American flag background. (Not sure what the stars and stripes have to do with any of this.) If that’s the original title it’s a shame they didn’t keep it, it’s actually the main reason I wanted to see the movie. Also, I’m sorry to report that nobody ever refers to him as “one tough bastard” in the movie, even though he is one. I guess some things you gotta depict visually, not explain everything in dialogue.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.