I’m always happy to track down another Loren Avedon movie, because I know you, dear reader, are in a state of worry. “Which Loren Avedon movie from the VHS bargain bin should I buy?” you scream, and I hear you. Avedon was one of my favourite 90s martial arts / action movie guys, being able to kick ass and act, occasionally at the same time, and he’s been in at least one classic of the genre (“No Retreat, No Surrender 2”) and plenty of entertaining trash, like “King Of The Kickboxers”.
Around the millennium, looks like he sort of gave up on acting as a career, only appearing for his friends and doing the odd bit of “uncredited goon with no lines” work here and there. Avedon thinks this is due to an incident in 1991 with ISCFC favourite Sherrie Rose (“Summer Job”, “Lauderdale”) where he insulted her on set and she then badmouthed him to producers afterwards – but it’s not like her career was amazing either, so I just think he was a pretty tough guy to work with, if far too talented for the trashy roles he got.
The gist of “Silent Force” is there’s a group of Federal agents, working off-book, who are trying to take down some Chinese drug smugglers. Avedon is Frank Stevens, as nicely generic a name as you’ll ever find, and he’s got a sort of Lethal Weapon buddy-cop thing going on with Billy Lee (Clint Jung). They arrest Kim Pao, the son of the main guy Hue Gung Pao, and it’s on!
A brief aside at the casting of Pao, pere and fils: George Chung is the dad and Brian Tocchi is the son. These guys are both much better known as comedy actors – Chung from “Austin Powers” and “Rush Hour”, Tochi from the “Revenge Of The Nerds” series, so it’s a tough sell to see them as murderous villains. But anyway.
The Pao family then wipe out Silent Force’s base, kidnapping Billy Lee and only leaving Frank because he was out buying groceries at the time of the attack. They have a mole inside Silent Force who they just straight-up murder as soon as the job’s done, which would not exactly inspire loyalty in any future moles; but there’s a mole inside Pao’s family as well, Natalie, the beautiful new girlfriend of one of his lieutenants (Karen Kim). The FBI list Frank as dead so he can go after Pao undetected, but then he tells the first group of baddies he meets what his name and plan is, so he’s perhaps not the smartest Federal agent of all time.
From the beginning, it will come as no surprise to the discerning B-movie fan that this is writer / director David May’s one and only credit. That first-timer’s incompetence is all over this movie, from the very beginning, with its self-consciously cool location (Silent Force is in what looks like a dojo in a disused factory), to the terrible sexist dialogue – “a woman on the rag can be a very dangerous opponent” to the meaningless cop jargon spewed all over the place. It’s a level 3 priority, you guys! Cos level 2 priorities aren’t worth a damn!
There’s plenty of editing that makes potentially decent exciting scenes look terrible, like the shootout in the neon-drenched restaurant / bar. There’s a guy coming round the corner, but we’re not sure which corner, and the killing shot landed on him appears to just teleport into his chest, as there’s no gun pointed at him. Then there’s a few fights where obviously bad angles were used, so you can see punches miss their target or really awkward-looking swings – little stuff, admittedly, but when you’re operating at the lower end of the cinematic pool, you need to get all this stuff right to rise above the rest of the dreck.
There’s also the bizarre Matthias Hues cameo to talk about. When they capture Frank, they decide to make him fight to save the life of Natalie, who they’ve captured too, and for absolutely no reason whatsoever, they bring in Hues (uncredited, too) as a ringer. If you’re going to stack the deck against Frank, why not just shoot him? The Feds bust in and Hues shoots a few of them before going down himself – perhaps the director was a really big fan of the fight the same two actors had in “No Retreat, No Surrender 2” and wanted a rematch?
This is a curious movie. Released in 2001, it was clearly destined to be straight-to-video shelf-filler, but those shelves were shrinking even as early as then, and one can’t help but think it must have sat unreleased for quite a while. Evidence – Avedon looks a decent amount younger than he does in “Manhattan Chase”, filmed the year before this was released; and if it had been released in the mid-90s, it could have done a lot more business probably. Kung fu movies and buddy-cop movies were both pretty old news by 2001, more evidence for it being a little out of time. Plus, the director does have one other credit, second-unit on 1994’s “A.P.E.X.”, so I can buy him working on that, rounding some money up to make a movie, failing miserably and then going back to his day job, but to wait 7 years? I don’t see this as anyone’s passion project.
Aside: take ISCFC legend Brion James, for example (who is credited as the singer and songwriter for this movie’s theme, amazingly) – despite dying in 1999, the last film he acted in wasn’t released til 2005. This is clearly more common than I thought.
Sprinkle on an ending where the previously psychopathic villain turns into a camp bit of comic relief, as hero and heroine sail off into the sunset on the drug dealer’s yacht with all his money, and you’ve got yourself a movie. But should you watch it?
If you’re a real hardcore fan of Loren Avedon, then yes. But then if you’re one of those you wouldn’t need my review! It’s not quite terrible enough to be on the so-bad-it’s-good spectrum, and it’s certainly not good enough to just be a decent movie in its own right – but it’s just about okay enough that you won’t want to throttle me if you watch it based on this. Plus, it’s free, so put your feet up and enjoy.
Rating: thumbs in the middle