|VHS cover scan courtesy of Retro-Daze.com|
Directed by: Jon Hess
Shame on me for taking so long to finally get to this. 90's martial arts/action/cop movies just don't get any better than this. Excessive Force has everything you could possibly want in a film of this type, and it delivers ten-fold. Not only did this film meet my expectations, it damn well exceeded them.
I could give you a synopsis, but basically it's virtually every single action/cop film cliche all thrown together. Which is absolutely fine because what set's this particular one apart from the vast majority of all the others is that this one is actually really good, surprisingly well made, and a blast from start to finish. It's like all the right elements came together at just the right time for this. For example, director Jon Hess does one helluva job shooting this thing, giving it a fantastic 90's cop movie vibe, full of gritty atmosphere and lots of excessive violence. In fact, I'm surprised his career didn't take off after this, the way other action director's did at the start of theirs like Renny Harlin and John McTiernan. Quite the contrary, Hess really didn't do much after this, and of all the films he's done, this is really the only solid one that stands out.
And it's sad to say, but despite a memorable turn as the lead vampire in John Carpenter's Vampires, and the assholiest of assholes in Karate Kid Part 3, Griffith really didn't turn into the new breakout action star that he should have been. It's a shame really. He's one of the few martial artists that can actually act. Not only that, while not the most handsome actor, he's definitely got a big, physically imposing presence. It really is a damn shame he never made it big.
Written/Produced/Starring Thomas Ian Griffith, Excessive Force is one of those hidden unseen gems that really should have gotten a bigger and better reception than it did. It should have given Griffith the same kind of recognition that Hard to Kill did for Seagal, or the way Kickboxer did for Van Damme. In fact, I found this one a helluva lot more entertaining and better made than Rapid Fire, the martial arts/action film that tried to turn Brandon Lee into an action star. Instead, Griffith was stuck in DTV-land, with the occasional role in a big budget film like Vampires or XXX. Still, the guy is a badass. It's like he knew exactly what kind of film he wanted, the kind of film and genre he was good at, so he just went out and wrote the damn thing himself. And he doesn't try to do a vanity project type thing where he makes himself out to be a hero. No sir. His character is actually pretty unlikable to be honest, yet he's so convincing that he's just fascinating to watch. He sells it, and he sells it really well.
Griffith was smart to surround himself with some pretty outstanding notable costars. Every time a new face popped up I was kind of caught off guard. I mean, you have Tony Todd (Candyman) as his partner, Lance Henrikesen as his boss, Burt Young (The Rocky films) as a bad guy, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) as a friend, and the list goes on and on. It was kinda nuts at how good this cast was, all of which do what they do best.
If you like these types of films, you owe it to yourself to dig into this one. I can't stress that enough. It's just fucking awesome all around. One of the best in this genre, from any decade. And you're in luck. It's easy to get your hands on. Whether you go the DVD or VHS route, you won't pay more than $5, and that's with shipping included. I strongly suggest you seek this one out pronto. You'll thank me.