Saturday, 3 December 2011



The third of Cannon Films' triumvirate of regular action stars, after Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff was the least of the three, both in terms of acting skills and martial arts mastery. While Norris was a bona fide world karate champion and Bronson was an effortless screen presence and a highly experienced actor, Dudikoff wasn't any of these things - he's a former model and martial arts student but he really isn't an actor at all. However, he has accumulated 54 acting credits on the IMDb page, including an episode of Dallas, a bit part in Tron, Enter The Ninja and three of the American Ninja series of low-grade kickabouts. Happily, he isn't required to act in this typical Cannon meat-headed nonsense which interestingly predates John Woo's Hard Target.

Avenging Force apparently originated as a sequel to Invasion USA of all things but Chuck Norris couldn't do it, so they gave it to Dudikoff instead. Despite being 14 years younger than Norris, he's nominally playing the same part and, having retired from the CIA Very Special Forces to New Orleans to look after his young sister, he finds himself dragged back when his best friend Steve James, running for Senator, is the target for a murder attempt by a secretive group of racist millionaire whackjobs known as Pentangle (presumably unrelated to the British folk band of the same name). In addition to sending out incompetent minions to botch absurdly public assassinations, the leaders of Pentangle like to dress up as historical warriors and hunt men to their deaths in their private swamp. Once they get a sniff of Dudikoff's skills, they foolishly decide to use him for their next Most Dangerous Game....

Despite having plenty of biff-kerpow headkicking fight sequences, Avenging Force isn't particularly good: it's as if they scaled the whole project down once they realised they couldn't have Chuck Norris for it. The final action sequence is pretty good, as Dudikoff takes on the lunatics from Pentangle in a swamp during a torrential rainstorm, and some of the stuntwork is sufficiently dangerous-looking (particularly in a burning house); John P Ryan has fun as the head of the organisation, getting to spew obnoxious racist bile left and right, and it's surprising in that the villains kill off a couple of children, which is surely even more of a taboo than killing puppies. But much of it is still formulaic, predictable and unstylish to look at, and it never overcomes the George Lazenby-shaped hole where a charismatic leading man should be. Dedicated fans of low-rent karate actioners should get their money's worth, but everybody else....



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