It is a sad fashion that the average slob will feign ignorance while stepping over a body near death splayed across the sidewalk. Similarly, with too brief a glance, the IMDb-empowered casual viewer tends to clod hope over movies like “One Man Force” with a groan, as if they were dehydrated dog shit. The difference between hearing and listening is a level of comprehension. It’s also what separates seeing something from watching something. Most who merely see this film write it off as b-par eighties action crap. Those who actually pay attention to it see past the shape to find a bejeweled hunk of gold that only looks like a turd. This is not by text book definition a good movie. Instead, you have a busy constellation of bizarre details that make up a compelling experience, which can be just as rewarding as a anything the critics will tell you is wonderful.
This movie falls under the Action sub-category of renegade cop, and the bare bones of the setup are painfully cliché. A detective goes on an emotionally charged crusade to avenge the death of his partner, and winds up alienating his superiors, who revoke his badge. It’s been done into the high triple digits at this point. What makes “One Man Force” unique though, is that it’s kind of like an issue of Marvel Comics “What If…?”
When you first get a load of dashing Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) alongside lumbering ex-Raider John Matuszak, the roles seem fairly obvious. In any other movie, Jones would be the most likely candidate to go off the rail when his less charismatic, oafish partner gets whacked. But convention be damned as Jones gets the bullet that typically would wind up in the dopey partner's head. From here, Matuszak becomes the central character and goes into berserker revenge mode. Essentially, the creators of this film have unwittingly gouged the surface of an amazing gimmick.
Most would struggle to place John Matusazk’s name or face, but he's probably best known for playing Chunk’s disfigured sidekick Sloth in "The Goonies." In stature he is a remarkable specimen, but otherwise he’s an unkempt void of charisma trapped in a track suit; kind of like a shittier Lyle Alzado. Matuszak is the kind of guy whom you’d expect to be relegated to the supporting role of silent brute or Bond-ish henchman. But there is a certain genius in casting him as the main protagonist, mainly because no other leading men out there are physically capable of killing someone with a Pepsi machine. He takes being a capable tough guy to an almost surreal level.
At the same time Matuszak’s partner is gunned down by a South American drug cartel, terrorists abduct a rock singer, played by Stacey Q. Both of these situations entwine to create a plot that manages to be both stupid and convoluted. Meanwhile, Ronny Cox continues to be typecast as the dickhead superior officer struggling to keep Matuszak in line. The production is lined with a fantastic cast, including Charles Napier as a crooked cop, the phenomenal Robert Tessier ("The Longest Yard," "The Born Losers") as a hard hitting nemesis, and skull-faced Richard Lynch as the plot’s ultimate puppet master, but most of these names are virtually squandered due to the busy plot.
The editing kicks the pace up to break-neck speed, and I suspect a lot of stuff that would help the movie make more sense probably wound up casualties to time constraints. The order in which some sequences are cut is almost nonsensical at times. The film’s subplot, where Matuszak teaches his dead partner’s son how to defend himself against some neighborhood pot dealers, is violently shoehorned into what is already a tightly coiled mess. It’s completely pointless, but the upside is that it compounds the movie’s enjoyable strangeness. The action sequences are not only genuinely well done, but innovative as well. The brawl in the fetish bar in particular is one of the film’s many high points.
A validating entry in the Academy Entertainment catalog, this is certainly one of the best films they distributed, deserving the appreciation of over-the-top eighties action aficionados. Must see!
Thanks to Action Packed Cinema for the trailer.
A sad footnote, John Matuszak died of heart failure the year this movie was released. An autopsy revealed that he had both painkillers and cocaine in his system at the time of death, and was also suffering from pneumonia.