Tactical Force (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Tactical Force (2011)

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With the film market slowly changing I wonder what's going to happen to the direct-to-DVD likes of Ferocious Planet and Tactical Force. It's an intriguing niche market and there's a charm in seeing all these low-budget films flooding the shelves each week.  But the truth is that trudging the murky waters of the direct-to-DVD field yields few rewards as they're mostly low concept sci-fi or gritty crime films treading too familiar ground without contributing much in return.

Tactical Force looked to be mining that territory for much of the opening twenty minutes.  We're introduced to the LA S.W.A.T. team led by Captain Frank Tate (Steve Austin) and his eclectic crew as they rescue hostages from a grocery store robbery gone comical.  Their tactics had a touch of the Keystone Kops with cold-cuts being thrown as a distraction, BB guns used to disarm the robbers, and Frank taking the curious tactical approach of removing his helmet and charging down the aisle against an armed opponent.

These moments had a touch of desperation, not on behalf of the characters, but from the director/writer Adamo Paolo Cultraro.  Instead of plotting out an interesting take-down these quirky touches on the team were a desperate attempt to make any of our recently introduced heroes more than a blank slate.  The following scenes don't help, where we have the typical "Your team is out of line" speech from their superior officer and refresher training session in tactics that shows that Frank and his team would much rather play with their toys than save any lives.

Austin tries to point out who to shoot, team confuses hostages for target, hilarity ensues.

Yet it's all not without energy, and as much as I disbelieved these opening moments to the point of dislike, the desperate enthusiasm starts to pay off with the central crisis.  Frank leads his team to an abandoned warehouse for a training exercise and get caught up in the middle of two rival gangs all trying to get a suitcase filled with, presumably, whatever was in the similar case in Pulp Fiction.

Tactical Force really started to surprise me here with creative use of it's setting and some wonderfully anachronistic touches.  The entirety of the film plays out in the warehouse with all three sides dodging and fighting the other while trying to stay hidden.  The action is slick, filled with the sort of planning and tactical intrigue completely lacking in the opening scenes and, at it's best, recalling some similar "assault the stronghold" moments from John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13.

The movie makes the most out of it's action star and former wrestler cast.  The close-up fight scenes, when they finally come, are brutal and skillful.  They're not shot in the quick-edit post-Bourne and Batman Begins universe but set at a distance so we can see the skill of the fighters in action.  It's not played for cheesy laughs but as a demonstration of effective combat.  Austin is able to put his former wrestling skills to good use in a great climactic grappling moment and Michael Jai White (who, after Black Dynamite, really should be a larger star than he is) has the highlight in a thrilling close-quarters karate match.

Great fight work from Michael Jai White in this movie.

The villains gave the movie another nice throwback to the halcyon action years of the 80's.  Peter Kent and Candace Elaine play Russian mobsters with a touch of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame).  Their performances are just self-mocking enough to be funny, lending an anachronistic touch to the otherwise cookie-cutter villains.  It all ends just as strangely as it begins, with a late film revelation that would be stupid if it weren't so self-consciously charming.

Credit where credit's due, it's hard to find a good direct-to-DVD movie and Tactical Force is just entertaining enough to recommend.  There's enough skill and acting chops onscreen to carry us all the way through the sillier moments, and it's bounce back from the set-up is somewhat remarkable.  There's no green-screening, just some good old fashioned great fight choreography and situational awareness.

It may not be answering the big questions but sometimes it's good to see Michael Jai White kicking someone in high style.

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Tactical Force (2011)

Written and directed by Adamo Paolo Cultraro.
Starring Steve Austin, Michael Jai White, Candace Elaine and Peter Kent.

Posted by Andrew

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