by Jack Sommersby
As he also proved in the underpraised 1984 horror flick "Night Shadows", B-movie veteran Wings Hauser can play heroes as vividly amd forcefully as he can villains.After doing four years in the soap opera The Young and the Restless, the great Wings Hauser contributed a scary, sensational, show-stopping turn as the psychopathic pimp Ramrod in the 1982 Los Angeles crime thriller Vice Squad. Positively teeming with undiluted intensity, Hauser projected so much in the way of mesmerizing malevolence that he turned the picture upside down -- he gave it the kind of horrific energy that made you wish for more scenes of his despicable villain and less of the blandly honorable cop tracking him down. One year later, Hauser returned to L.A.'s sleazy, crime-ridden streets in Deadly Force, only this time, as opposed to whipping hookers with wire hangers and slicing the gonads off a rival pimp, he's an ex-LAPD cop named Stoney Cooper who's left his new home in the Big Apple to avenge the death of his best friend's granddaughter, the eighteenth victim of the notorious "X Killer", who has the City of Angels in a widespread panic to the point where a quarter-of-a-million-dollar reward is being offered for his capture. Stoney and friend Sam pound the pavement of his previous stomping grounds and calls upon past informants and cop acquaintances for help; he also starts working his way back into the life of his estranged wife, who's an investigative news reporter assigned to the X Killer story. But Stoney has his work cut out for him. The victims don't run to a specific type, the killer's MO is ever-changing, and he's constantly at odds with two past adversaries: his former lieutenant who's now a newly-promoted captain with political aspirations, and a mob boss he arrested and put away for six months; both none too subtly make it clear that Stoney should put some serious distance between himself and the state of California. Like Dirty Harry, though, Stoney isn't one to run from a battle or play by the rules -- he makes the rules, and so help anyone who stands in his doggedly-determined way. As you've probably surmised thus far, neither the hero nor the story premise is even remotely original, but thanks to Hauser's bravura star turn, energetic direction by Paul Aaron, and a screenplay that holds a couple of surprisingly nifty turns late in the game, the proceedings are quite enjoyable nevertheless. Make no mistake: Deadly Force is nothing more than a junky B-movie, and it has its fair share of unintentional howlers (my favorite is when the abysmal Joyce Ingalls, as Eddie, Stoney's ex, says, "I've got my own life now, and I like it!"), but I've seen more believably-plotted B-movies that didn't go down nearly as well. Aaron keeps the pace lively and stages the action sequences with competence, and he's got a rather deft hand with montages that aptly convey information. Gary S. Scott's spirited score adds some boost, and so does the supporting performance of Paul Shenar, in the role of a millionaire self-help guru who might just hold the key to the mystery in his svelte hands. Also for good measure, there's the mobster's defying-gravity-bosomed bimbo girlfriend who smacks popcorn while watching porno in bed, a street hooker who does her clients in the same church where she keeps her newborn, and a whoops! shot of Hauser obviously wearing a "cock sock" during a scene where he's shot at from the next building over while lounging in a cast-iron bathtub. And holding everything together is the inimitable Hauser, who blows everyone (sometimes literally) right off the screen. He successfully brings off Stoney's soft side (when Eddie initially refuses to help, Hauser eases his way into the line, "This isn't for me -- this is for Sam."), and he takes absurd tough-guy dialogue and carries it off with brio (when Sam cautions an enraged Stoney that the killer's got Eddie, he says, "He's got me, Sam."). He's terrific, and so, in an undemanding way, is Deadly Force.Needs a DVD release!
"More Wings, Please"
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originally posted: 04/23/05 17:29:50