I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Excessive Force

tn_excessiveforceEXCESSIVE FORCE is a pretty generic cop-who-can-kick action movie from Jon Hess, the director of ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION. That would be funny if it was the same guy that did NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, but I guess that was Jared Hess. It’s written by and stars Thomas Ian Griffith.

Griffith reminds me a little bit of Jeff Wincott. He’s a slim guy, not muscled out like Van Damme or somebody, with long hair and a dangly earring. He tends to wear long coats and scarfs, looks more like somebody who would play a troubled musician than an angry cop. But he’s a real martial artist who’s apparently good at kicking, so (much like Van Damme and his splits) he’s always looking for openings to kick guys in the face, just so you remember he can do it. I’m surprised he doesn’t use his feet to open doors, turn lights on and off or scratch his nose.

He doesn’t do that, but he does use his feet all throughout the movie. Kick kick kick kick kick. Yeah, he punches too, and he shoots, but high kicks and spin kicks (almost always to the head) are his bread and butter. He does the same kick three or more times in a row. That’s just what he does. He’s a kicker.

mp_excessiveforceThe story kicks off with one of these drug bust scenes. Griffith’s character McCain and his partners are trying to take down a mobster called DiMarco (Burt Young, Paulie from ROCKY). They hospitalize one of his associates and McCain gets a confession out of him by bullying him in the hospital bed. During the trial the evidence is thrown out because it was obtained by… well, you know, the title of the movie. And to be fair, the fact that he used a gun in the drug bust should count as excessive force considering his kicking skills. There is no situation he couldn’t handle with his kicks, so any time he resorts to shooting that’s excessive, in my opinion.

But $3 million from the set-up drug deal goes missing, and cops start turning up dead (including McCain’s partner played by Tony Todd). So McCain has to solve the mystery or kick a guy or whatever. And the mobster wants the money and does some killing and what not. You know how these work.

Lance Henriksen plays the chief of police, more of the understanding mentor type than the kind that’s always yelling for McCain to come into his office. The part becomes a little more than that later on, there is more dimension to the character than revealed at first. I would never dream of giving away what it is and also there’s just no chance you would possibly be able to guess what sort of twist there could be involving a nice character played by Lance Henriksen. So let’s forget we even brought it up.

One thing of interest is that McCain has two (2) badass juxtapositions. The first one is that he’s a jazz pianist. He hangs out at James Earl Jones’s club De Ja Vu. He just walks in off the street, James is on stage playing sax with his combo and McCain joins in. The score for the movie is cheesy LETHAL WEAPON style electric guitar noodling, so I’m surprised how tasteful the jazz is here. Not even smooth at all.

That’s a classic badass juxtaposition but of course it’s the exact same one Clint had in IN THE LINE OF FIRE, as well as in real life. But I looked it up and EXCESSIVE FORCE actually came out about two months before IN THE LINE OF FIRE. So I’m gonna give him this one.

Clint did it better, because Clint does everything better than everybody. Luckily McCain has a backup juxtaposition, and that is that he has a kitten. He pisses off his ex by bringing it to her house and feeding it milk, but then she understands when he explains that it belonged to his dead partner. You know how cops are, always buying kittens when they’re on a big case. Anyway, the movie doesn’t address that milk gives cats diarrhea.

The fights are pretty good. There’s some jumping and kicking guys through windows. There’s some jumping over a car and dangling from a pole like a monkey to shoot. There’s a pitchfork used as a weapon.

Unfortunately there’s not enough excessiveness in EXCESSIVE FORCE. Despite all the talk this guy doesn’t really go that overboard compared to other movie cops, so it feels alot more like a MEDIUM FORCE or an AVERAGE FORCE. Also the movie seems to approve of him being excessive, but only in a passive way. It clearly doesn’t disagree with him but doesn’t bother to make a passionate argument on his behalf either. Making that the title maybe confuses the issue.

The production value is surprisingly good for a movie starring Thomas Ian Griffith called EXCESSIVE FORCE. It feels almost on par with Andrew Davis’s movies, and not just because it also takes place in Chicago. It’s above competently made and watchable. But I think the plot is just too generic to stand out. It’s got all the things we’ve seen a million tmes before without enough unique flavors. I’m sure it’s partly modeled on the early Seagal movies like ABOVE THE LAW, but it doesn’t have as much of the personal obsessions and quirks as Seagal added to make the movie reflect himself.

You know me, I don’t require these things to be very original, but you gotta put something on there. You take all the formulas and the cliches but then you put them together in an odd way or put some strange touches on top of them or use them to set you up to expect one thing and get another, or some damn thing to make the move interesting. Unfortunately this one is completely coloring in the lines until maybe a few things near the end.

I do gotta say I liked the punchline at the end which is (yes, that means SPOILER when I say I’m about to say the punchline at the end) nobody ever finds the money and then the refrigerator it’s stashed in gets donated to the Salvation Army. I guess it’s kind of like the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK now that I think about. But with less face melting. Anyway, my guess is the money was eventually found and used to fund the sequel.

Henriksen of course does a good job as a quiet, intensely intimidating dude, but it’s not one of his more interesting characters even of that time (it’s within a couple years of STONE COLD, HARD TARGET and DELTA HEAT).

I don’t know how familiar you guys are with Griffith. I’m new to him. I know him mainly as Valek, the lead bloodsucker in John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES, but he’s a practicioner of Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo karate so he started out in THE KARATE KID PART III and later some of these b-action movies. This is actually the third one that he wrote (after NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR and ULTERIOR MOTIVES).

I was curious about his martial arts background so I looked up his Tae Kwon Do master, Jun Chong. Turns out he also taught Phillip Rhee, star of all four BEST OF THE BEST movies, and Rhee teaches at his school in San Francisco. Jun Chong also had the same Hapkido teacher as Bruce Lee. He’s also done a few movies himself and in fact starred in the not-even-remotely-close-to-as-awesome-as-it-sounds BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE, credited as “Bruce K.L. Lea.”

I’ll say this for EXCESSIVE FORCE: it’s way fuckin better than BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE, and has just as much to do with Bruce Lee. There really is a part 2, which has a different cast and director, apparently not connected to this one. But I’ll have to watch it eventually because it’s called EXCESSIVE FORCE 2: FORCE ON FORCE.

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 Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 12:34 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Excessive Force”

  1. If you want Thomas Ian Griffith, I suggest the Sidney J. Furie-directed HOLLOW POINT which features a bunch of uninteresting and annoying shit from Griffith and mildly unusual partner Tia Carerre, but does have a great John Lithgow villainous turn and a truly amazing WTF performance by Donald Sutherland as a character who is hard to describe in conventional terms.

    Also am I the only one who saw an action movie starring Thomas Ian Griffith and thought, damn, that weird kid from AMERICAN PIE sure grew up to be a weird lanky action movie star.

  2. Great to see this flick get a mention, Vern, even if it is only an OK movie.

    I have a buddy who was obsessed with this back in the day, going on and on about it and when I finally saw it I must admit to only thinking, ah, it’s fine but fell short for me.

    I wonder what happened to Thomas Ian Griffith? He kinda set himself up as a sort of action film auteur, what with all the writing, but he seemed to burn out fast (I recall seeing him play Rock Hudson of all people in a made-for-TV biopic. He was good in the small bit I saw but it seemed odd casting, like getting Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa to play George Takei or something).

    I think one of the posters might be to blame – the one that said, “In the 70’s – Chuck Norris; in the 80’s – Seagal…”, like, move over, guys, here comes the real deal…

    The action movie gods cursed him, for sure.

  3. Detective McCain:
    . . . gets a leg up on crime. . .

    . . . fights crime with his feet because he’s the sole of justice. . .

    He’s no loafer when it comes to catching criminals. . .

    . . . a detective who steel-toe boots crime out of his city. . .

    I used to be better at this. I’m giving myself a C for this effort and getting back to my first post-ObL Cinco de Mayo celebration.

  4. ThomasCrown442

    May 5th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    2nd vote for Hollow Point. Used to be on cable all the time back in the day and, as a teenager, i was genuinely excited to watch it whenever it was on. Haven’t seen it in awhile but I remember liking it a whole lot and you gotta love mid 90’s Tia Carrera.

  5. Detective McCain:
    He may be a Cop, but he’s no Flat Foot.

  6. 3rd on HOLLOW POINT. It’s a winner, and Mr. S is dead on about Donald Sutherland. He saves the whole thing.

  7. I’m Detective McCain and this is my partner Detective Palin

  8. So how about that VAMPIRES review?

  9. Fuck Snakes on a Plane – Excessive Force II: Force on Force is the best film title EVER. More words in the title are “Force” than aren’t. That’s amazing. I got all excited when it showed up on Netflix Streaming a while back and then never got around to watching it and it’s gone. C’est la vie.

    I remember this being fairly enjoyable but mildly forgettable. So forgettable I can’t remember if Charlotte (The Golden Child) Lewis gets naked or not, and I ALWAYS remember those things.

    As for Griffith, I demand a spinoff of Terry Silver, his character in Karate Kid III. He’s hilarious and charismatic, even mega-acting in some scenes. His story and character are so over-the-top, so ludicrous, it’s like he walked in from another movie! KKIII itself is disappointing, but I can pretty much guarantee that if Vern hasn’t seen it already, Terry Silver will be right up his alley.

  10. bruce lee fights back from the grace may suck but the dragon lives again is hilarious

  11. I saw this on Swedish television in the 90’s. And even if I’d had a few I seem to remember that I liked Griffith a lot.

  12. Neal2Zod – Sharing the Silva love. He has the most evilly repulsive shit-eating grin ever on film (and yes, I do think it’s worse than Cary Elwes in “Twister”).

  13. Quite liked Excessive Force back in the day, although it is very generic overall. Ulterior Motives is actually better. Griffiths ditches the kicks for a samurai sword, playing a private eye hired by a news reporter looking into insider trading. Contains one of the most shocking plot developments ever.

    Griffiths also made a Die-Hard rip-off called Crackerjack, set in a ski resort which is taken over by terrorists. I remember seeing the trailer but never tracked the film down.

  14. Napoleon Dynamite

    May 6th, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Vern, do you have a facebook fan page? My 2,673 “friends” need to know about you.

    Tia Carrera = Strawberry Ice Cream and Cake!!

  15. Knox Harrington

    May 6th, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I remember effing loving Carpenter’s Vampires when it came out.

    Curious to see how it holds up, since almost all of Carpenter’s movie have aged incredibly well, except (funnily enough) his work over the last 15 years or so. Gonna have to watch that one again.

  16. Nabroleon Dynamite

    May 6th, 2011 at 5:57 am

    And why does it say Napoleon Dynamite instead of Nabroleon Dynamite?

  17. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    May 6th, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I was reading this review not sure if I rented it back in the day. Then when I read about James Earl Jones’ jazz bar I realised I had seen this.

  18. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    May 6th, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Nap/Nab-roleon Dynamite> How popular are you on facebook? I feel like my page is getting crowded with eighteen friends. I might chop it down to a top ten, keep it in order. But damn, 2,673? That is incredible.

  19. “I would never dream of giving away what it is and also there’s just no chance you would possibly be able to guess what sort of twist there could be involving a nice character played by Lance Henriksen.”

    He’s an android chief of police?

  20. Jareth Cutestory

    May 6th, 2011 at 7:20 am

    “You know me, I don’t require these things to be very original, but you gotta put something on there.”

    Anyone every see that Belgian horror film CALVAIRE? That film really exemplifies Vern’s point that you can make a pretty effective film with only slight modifications to the formula. It also proves that dancing can be scary.

  21. Nabroleon – yeah, look over on the right column, at the bottom. It’s not really “my facebook page” ’cause I don’t even know how to use it but it links to my new reviews and stuff. I’m told this is what they use now to do computering or whatever. I did see The Social Network twice but I don’t think they explained it.

    Knox – it seems like most people I run into hate Vampires, but I don’t get it. I think it’s great. I wonder how different I would see it though if I was familiar with Griffith’s action movies before I saw it.

    John Carpenter’s new one is playing at the film festival here by the way. I’ll try to see it obviously. Also they got Joseph Kahn’s new movie.

  22. brandon curtis

    May 6th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    The “Somewhere” review has more comments than “Fast Five.” Badass juxtaposition, anyone?

  23. WOW I remember seeing this many years ago around the same time THE PERFECT WEAPON had dropped. That was like the time of the trend of “these guys are genuine martial artists so they must star in big screen fluff” that followed after the rise of Seagal. I would’ve never even remembered this movie had I not seen this review; it’s really been that long. I guess I will have to revisit. My favorite role from Griffith though was his ultra sleazeball in KARATE KID PT. III matter of fact his performance was the only thing that made it even watchable.

  24. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Vern. You NEED to see Karate Kid 3. I guarantee you will love Griffith’s Terry Silver character. One of the all-time great movie villains. He’s hilarious in it.

  25. Jareth – Now I’m picturing a version of CALVAIRE with Thomas Ian Griffith is an up and coming karate champion who wanders into an insane town and starts kicking the shit out of everyone as they comically try to rape him.

  26. Am I the only one that remembers HBO world premiering grade B-action movies every Friday night? Because that’s what I most remember Hollow Point from… definitely worth watching, by the way. Donald Sutherland is… fascinating in that movie.

    And Vern, if you’ve never seen Excessive Force II: Force On Force, you’ve never lived…

    Well, you’ve probably lived, but you should also watch that sometime. It’s got better action and is far less generic than the first one.

  27. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned just how much Griffith looked like the young(er) Seagal in KARATE KID III. I mean, from some angles it was eerie. And I’d say he’s actually a fairly decent actor from what I’ve seen. I’ve got EXCESSIVE FORCE but haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen ULTERIOR MOTIVES (which was the one with the “In the 70s there was Norris etc.” tagline alluded to above), and I remember it was surprisingly quirky with lots of twist.

  28. TwistS

  29. Bantam, I remember. Every once in a while they’d show a real one like Jackie Chan’s Who Am I or Steven Seagal’s the Patriot.

  30. Jareth Cutestory

    May 7th, 2011 at 7:22 am

    marlow – At the end of your new version of CALVAIRE, Thomas Ian Griffith can find a dress-wearing Laurent Lucas lying in the muck and tell him to “pull himself together.” Also, Griffith has to team up with Mademoiselle Vicky from the beginning of the movie. Many knees will get smashed.

  31. Nabroleon Dynamite

    May 7th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    @Ace Mac. 2,680 as of this morning. It’s a bitch when you have 126 friends with birthdays on the same day or some shit. If you want to be 2,681 send me a request. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Outlaw-Vern/125736664144366?sk=wall#!/noneEQUIVALENT

    Anyone who’d like to receive a Free Digital Download of my new mixtape on the 17th, visit my facebook music page and smash the “Like” button. I just made the page 9 days ago, so I could use the Obama Bump!! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Outlaw-Vern/125736664144366?sk=wall#!/pages/SK9-Strick-9/210836798940461

    @VERN. Done deal sir. I am officially Fan #464!!

  32. Nabroleon Dynamite

    May 7th, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Ok, somehow I fucked that one up. Here’s my “Real Live Human being” Fackbook page. http://www.facebook.com/#!/noneEQUIVALENT

    And here’s my Hedonistic Rapper page. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/SK9-Strick-9/210836798940461

  33. nabroleon dynamite

    May 7th, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Looks like I’m eating a bowl of FAIL right now…

    Tia Carrera is Hot fellas, right???

  34. Once upon a time she was the GOAT. Word to WAYNE’S WORLD and SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, but I haven’t seen her in a while now so I’m not sure if she’s still quite the looker.

  35. Jareth Cutestory

    May 7th, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Broddie: She looked the same as always to me when she was on CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM a few years ago. Maybe a few more character lines in her face. That season of CURB played her up as being considered wildly attractive.

  36. Tia Carrere will forever be frozen in time in the Little Tokyo of my mind’s eye, next to the hot tub where Dolph has closed his eyes and waits.

    Also, I’m Dolph.

    Also, my eyes are open.

  37. But if you’re Dolph, you have to accept a very awkward compliment from Brandon Lee
    http://youtu.be/qHg2rRjGZNg

  38. Mouth, forgive me for this, but that wasn’t Tia Carrere – she had a body double for all her nude scenes in Showdown in LT. Dolph himself confirmed this a few months ago..

    Not that it stops me, uh, enjoying said scene.

    A buddy of mine walked past her 2-3 years ago and noted how well she looked as she smiled at him. He also got to kiss Kelly Hu. He’s a lucky bastard alright!

  39. {fingers in ears} LALALALALALALALALALALAICANTHEARYOULALALALALLALALALA

  40. You know Tia Carrere was in Playboy right? So…no need to pin all your hopes on her movie scenes…

  41. Whoa, thanks for the heads-up, Stu – just Googled it and…well, that was certainly an eye-opener!

    Truly, the internet is a wondrous thing.

  42. ThomasCrown442

    May 7th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Just saw Tia in an old episode of Married With Children the other day (back when she was a no namer). Speak of the devil and she shall appear.

  43. Jareth: She must’ve been on one of the seasons I missed when I temporarily cancelled HBO cause Time Warner cable bills here in NYC got too expensive for me at one point. By the time I resubscribed they were up to the SEINFELD reunion season so I even missed the one where the Black family moves in with him. I really do need to catch up and seeing older Tia is a legitimate enough excuse to go netflix those seasons sometime after the fight tonight.

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