So once again we have survived.

Special Forces

SPECIAL FORCES is part of the AMERICAN HEROES series which, as I’m sure you are all very aware, are unrelated Nu-Image action movies each spotlighting the heroism of one branch in the American military. So I hope I’m not unpatriotic for watching it for its Israeli director Isaac Florentine and British co-star Scott Adkins. I’ve written about these guys before – Florentine is the director of such movies as UNDISPUTED II and THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL, while Adkins is the co-star of movies ranging from UNDISPUTED II to THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL. Okay, so they aren’t making classics yet, but they’re some of the only reliable individuals I’ve found in the world of DTV action. They always seem like they’re trying.

A journalist taking pictures of atrocities in the in my opinion fictional former Soviet republic of Muldonia is taken hostage by some sadistic military assholes. One looks like a regular-sized Jaws from James Bond, but with grey hair, the other looks like the comedian Emo Philips wearing a beret. The second one is one of those villains you’re supposed to hate extra for his stupid haircut and hat, and the way he turns his nose up at everything. We should have enough to hate him for just with the atrocities he’s committed but we still find ourselves thinking “I hate him, he’s so stuck up!”

Special ForcesAnyway they send in a special forces team (okay, now I get that title) led by Major Don Harding (Marshall Teague), who actually had his whole platoon killed by these same pricks in Bosnia, but he insists he’s too professional to let it get personal.

The movie really starts rolling when they encounter a stranded British S.A.S. agent played by our boy Scott Adkins. All of the characters can fight, but his scenes in particular are acrobatic martial arts spectaculars like you rarely get in modern movies, especially cheapass DTV. This is a movie full of silenced pistol assassinations, guards shot out of watchtowers, bombs planted on trucks, gratuitous somersaults, snapped necks, slit throats and various other favorites. Adkins rolls around like a ninja, hops over fences like a yamikasi, even does one of those maneuvers where he jumps up, does the splits in the air kicking two guys in the head, then before hitting the ground brings one leg over to kick one of them a second time. (I wonder how he decided which one needed the 2 kicks?)

I think Adkins will become better known soon, but I’m not sure how much. He was already in a Bourne movie and he’s gonna be in WOLVERINE. But starring in a martial arts movie is the best thing for a guy like this, so I look forward to Florentine’s NINJA, where, if I’m not mistaken, he will be playing some sort of ninja. He’s kind of a pretty boy, he kind of looks like a cross between Ryan Reynolds and Ray Park. But his moves make him instantly badass, and he looks tough on a motorcycle. He steals this movie in the climactic battle with the Emo PHillips guy. That scene is more classic Hong Kong kung fu movie than DTV.

In fact, Florentine’s whole style is a throwback, a look back at a time when the camera was supposed to emphasize the action instead of be it. He also loves angles that glorify the characters, looking up at them or zooming in on their grimacing faces. It’s an energetic style, but not a spastic one. No Avid farts or distractingly-quick cuts. A reference to prisoners at Guantanomo took me by surprise – I thought it was a much older movie than 2003. In fact the only trace of modern hyper-active style is when the soldiers are first introduced it says their first name or nickname (“Bear” for example) on the screen with 2 swords crossed underneath it, and you hear the swords clanging together even though they’re just wingdings. This is of course because these brave men’s hearts were forged in the hot coals of combat.

The other thing that’s appealing about this movie besides the nearly non-stop action is the unashamed corniness of the characters, the lack of cynicism. They’re proud to be soldiers and sacrifice their personal lives for heroism. They say things like “When you’re the last man standing you have a responsibility.” “What’s that?” “To be the last man standing.”

Teague is perfect for this type of character, a grizzled grey-haired man’s man, kind of a bulkier Tom Berenger. In 2003 an action hero this old, this tough, and this lacking in irony is a precious commodity. At the end they’re being flown away in a chopper and Adkins asks Don why he still does it. He says, “I don’t know about you, but I know why I do it,” turns and smiles at a small American flag sticker on the inside wall of the copter. (And it dissolves to footage of a real flag fluttering in the wind, just so it’s not too pathetic.) If most action movies were this RAH! RAH! it would probaly piss me off, but seeing one like this is kind of charming.

This one kind of reminds me of SNIPER, but obviously way more violent since they don’t follow the one-shot method of war. To be honest the story isn’t as captiving and the characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would like. There is something not quite there about this one, and anything that’s stiff or inept doesn’t have any of the strangeness that I enjoy in my favorite DTVs. But the filmatic craftsmanship as far as putting together skillful action scenes goes far above and beyond the above average DTV action movie, or even some modern theatrical ones. So keep an eye on these two.

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.
This entry was posted on Monday, December 22nd, 2008 at 4:55 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “Special Forces”

  1. Someday, perhaps when the title of the film doesn’t refer to my job title, I’ll catch this one. The trailer looks legit.

    ***”They say things like “When you’re the last man standing you have a responsibility.” “What’s that?” “To be the last man standing.””*** Sadly, I could provide many examples of corny dialogue and catchphrases we military dudes use all the time. It’s not sad because we say them, but rather because sometimes I’m not sure if the other guys realize the irony & humor we should apply to such utterances. Sometimes I really think my teammates believe some of the stupid ‘Rah-rah’ maxims and shit. One stupidass selection candidate actually got a tattoo on his forearm that reads, “LIVE FOR SOMETHING OR DIE FOR NOTHING.” It’s on his arm forever. How can a guy not laugh at that?!

    I’m having trouble locating your Sniper series reviews. I’ve recently watched Sniper 1, 2, & 3, thinking we could bounce some talkback about them, but now I wonder about your commitment to badass Berenger.

  2. He should have tatted LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, with Bruno mug below it.

    Also SNIPER* kicks fucking ass.

    *=First one, haven’t bothered with the sequels.

  3. cosmosmariner1979

    August 1st, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    @ Mouth – I’m surprised they didn’t get “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything” down both arms.

  4. Sniper 2 is pretty good. Like the original, it was cliched but not predictable, I thought. I love the economy of it and the sudden, no-nonsense ending scene, the kind that only DTV has the balls (and impetus founded in a lack of financial resources) to pull off, it seems. And there were several unnecessary explosions, if I recall correctly.

    Sniper 3 was even lower-budget, and overall the weakest Sniper, but it definitely has the coolest ending, in which (SPOILER) Berenger has the bad guy in his sight in a precarious “Shoot the hostage/shield”-baiting type situation. Our hero adjusts his crippled trigger hand and flashes back to when he learned something about the way human hands work, so he shoots the gun-wielding guy next to the main bad guy in a precise spot in the hand, which causes a sudden involuntary motion that results in the main bad guy dying of a gunshot to the head. (END SPOILER) It’s one of those things that you know some writer/choreographer/wannabeSNIPER dreamt up years ago, then finally got the chance to put it in a real movie.

    I have one of those scenarios in my head, too. It involves a WWII battle where a guy is trying to take out an oncoming German squad. He takes cover behind a mound and picks up a dead buddy’s M1 Garand, which of course makes a distinctive sound upon firing the last loaded bullet. So eventually he tricks the bad guys into thinking he’s out of ammo. Then he uses his primary weapon and some other stuff to dominate. I’m in talks with Ryan Phillippe’s agent.

  5. Alright, let’s play “Stupidest/Worst Tat Ever.”

    In movieworld, I nominate Peter Sarsgaard’s gesture toward his best friend Val Kilmer in The Salton Sea.

    In realworld, christ it’s hard not to condemn a whole group here — what’s with the rash of Chinese words and symbols on people’s shoulder blades? How did so many people decide that was cool at roughly the same time?

  6. cosmosmariner1979

    August 1st, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I heard that most of those Chinese symbols are really bad translations for things like “chicken soup”. I would love it if someone thought they were getting a tat that read “peace and love” and it’s really “runny green diarrhea”.

    That would be hilarious.

    The worst tat I’ve ever seen (online, at least) is someone who got that dude who sang that “Chocolate Rain” song on their arm. I mean, for real? That’s awful. The worst I’ve seen in person is a really, really bad Hulk Hogan Wrestlemania thing that this skanky dude who lived in our trailer park got. It was infected and he insisted on standing on our porch and trying to show it to us. Granted this was a long time ago.

  7. Mouth – Shit man how about the infamous “tribal spiral armband” from the late 1990s? White Trash baby. I guess they’re still done, but I wouldn’t know because tats have never interested me beyond a platonic detail.

    Personally if I was ever to get a Tat, I want that pornographic risque Tat from FUTURAMA which is only visually deciphered on Ultra-Definition TV (UDTV calls HDTV a pussy,), otherwise its a big blur.

  8. One of my former teammates claims that he was partying and got blackout drunk one night and woke up with fresh ink on his lower stomach area. It’s a heart with a ribbon that includes the words “Boobs make me smile.” Not terrible for a vodka night faux pas.

  9. Yeah, RRA, the armbands were eerily universal in the late 90s, weren’t they? The barbwire, the pointy curvy things, etc.. I give it a pass because it’s not, like, offensively stupid, even though it’s funny that so many people got the exact same fucking thing in the exact same fucking place on their bodies. Conformists love tattoos, I guess, since tattoos make you unique. Way to make yourselves more of an individual, sheeple!

  10. cosmosmariner1979

    August 2nd, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Barbed wire if you think you’re some sort of ‘badass’ gym rat (or Pam Anderson), or tribal stuff if you think you’re extra bad… or a dolphin for a girl. At least dudes didn’t go around getting dolphins on a regular basis. DOLPH LUNDGREN, maybe. DOLPHINS, no.

    If I ever stop being chicken, I’m getting a tattoo of the Shadow-rama from MST3k on the back of my neck, so it looks like the ‘bots are making fun of my head. (Yeah, I’m a dork, so what?)

  11. Well, cosmosmariner1979, if a potential significant other ever saw that tat and responded enthusiastically, at least you would definitely know you had something in common and could use it to launch a relationship, be it 1-night stand style or putting a ring on it style. “Oh, honey, I’m so glad I noticed your MST3K tattoo the night we met.”
    “And I’m so glad they kicked me out of the frat for being such a dork, so I didn’t have my collar popped when you saw me at the party.”
    “Let’s prepare condescending remarks for the next time we see Uwe Boll and riff on Martin Landau in our VHS copy of WITHOUT WARNING while you pleasure me.”
    “Yes dear.”

    Only ink I’d consider would be my blood type in medium size simple print along the side[s] of my rib cage, where a doc/first responder could easily see it and where it’s unlikely a person would be shot or shrapneled.

  12. cosmosmariner1979

    August 2nd, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    I’m married, and my husband keeps telling me to go for it. And it’s not a damn dolphin.

    Different strokes for different folks (the world won’t move to the beat of just one drum, man…).

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Uwe Boll movie – mostly because while I love most blood and guts type of cinema, I don’t like horror films as a general rule.

  13. Boll just seems like he’d be a decent target for the MST3Kers.

    So many horror films just flat out suck. I’d give anything to be scared or at least startled by a movie. I wish I could feel that emotion.

  14. cosmosmariner1979

    August 2nd, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I can’t speak for all my fellow MSTies, but personally I quite enjoy the “bad” movies that get riffed in their own right. I mean, a movie like TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE is terrible, sure, but the guy did wrote and directed it really cared about it and wanted to do the absolute best he could do. It wasn’t his fault that he sucked at writing and directing. But from what I’ve read about Uwe Boll, he could give two good craps about the quality of his movies – maybe I should call them “product”? Therein lies the difference (at least to me).

    Maybe I should clarify my whole “horror” thing – to me, the horror genre consists primarily of slasher films. I mean, I guess technically “Rosemary’s Baby” is considered horror but I don’t ever think of that movie in that way. I think of it as a creepy suspense movie.

  15. If you’re going to watch a Uwe Boll movie then watch Seed or Postal. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but I like ’em. Especially Postal. It’s the movie he’s been building towards his entire career and just may be his masterpiece.

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