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"I was having a good day until you blew up my stuff!"
At first glance, MAXIMUM FORCE is a standard action B-movie, but while it probably never aspired to be more than a direct-to-video adrenaline package, what we have here is actually a missed opportunity at a potentially great action outing. With a fantastic cast to its name and action filmmaker extraordinaire Joseph Merhi directing, this should have amounted to a higher rating than I'm giving it now. The film has its moments, but loses out due to misuse of its performers and a mediocre plot.
The story: In a last-ditch effort to apprehend an untouchable crime lord (Richard Lynch), a secret strike force of dedicated cops (played by Sam Jones, Sherrie Rose, and Jason Lively) is assembled to take the fight directly to him.
I like seeing Sherrie Rose in action roles and Jason Lively is fun enough to watch, but Sam Jones' staid role stifles his usual charisma and likability. Richard Lynch can play an evil character with the slightest of effort, but he hardly does anything here besides hold ominous meetings with other bad guys. Other members of the dramatic cast include John Saxon, Mickey Rooney, Sonny Landham, Ken Davitian, and Michael DeLano, and while they do well enough with the screen time they have, they are all relegated to fairly limited roles with little to no action. This is all the more disappointing when considering that this is one of PM Entertainment's "serious" action films – one that tries to convey moments of genuine drama and some semblance of a social message. Why have all these cool actors if most of them are only in one or two scenes?
I had not expected this to be a martial arts movie, so imagine my surprise when the number of full-length karate fights neared a dozen. The extended martial cast includes Ken McLeod, Steven Ho, Dino Homsey, Dennis Keiffer, Zak Lee, Satch Williams, and Roger and Ron Yuan: a genuinely good hand for martial arts enthusiasts. The fights scenes end up being hit-and-miss, partially due to the fact that not all of the above-mentioned performers get to fight. Sam Jones and Sherrie Rose look surprising adept at martial arts and both get at least one decent match; Jones' showdown with Jeff Langton probably constitutes the best brawl of the film. Nevertheless, a bit more flair in general would have helped make more of the matches memorable. The non-kickboxing action portions are even blander and consist mainly of explosions.
What eventually keeps the movie from a higher rating is its limited energy. Merhi and PM tend to be great at delivering rollicking adventure flicks, but this one feels particularly restrained and suffers for it (perhaps they had to put up a serious front to get some of the more famous actors to sign?). The storyline tries to make its points about police corruption stick and make some of its deaths meaningful, but the film simply lacks both the finesse and the legitimacy for that. Treat this one strictly as a digital rental.
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