Back to the Steve Austin well! This one was intriguing because not only does it star Austin, but it stars my other big discovery from the action marathon – Michael Jai White. I enjoyed the Austin/Seagal team-up from Maximum Conviction so I was damn excited for Austin to team up with Black Dynamite himself. I was just hoping unlike Maximum Conviction, the two stars would actually spend a decent amount of time on screen together instead of primarily being off doing their own individual things. Well the good news is that Tactical Force has the common sense to ensure they are together quite a bit. The bad news is that this still doesn’t make this a very good movie.
The movie has a decently entertaining opening that shows a SWAT team stopping a convenience store robbery though their success seems to depend less on their own skill and more on the sheer incompetence of the robbers. At one point Steve Austin just runs at a guy who is carrying a gun who makes no attempt to stop him. You do get a couple decent fight moments and the standard “I know we’re supposed to be helping the proprietors of this grocery store but I’m still going to smash bad guys into their entire inventory” business. It’s nothing amazing but coming off that terrible opening chase in The Stranger, this feels like Terminator 2 in comparison.
After the robbery is thwarted the team is expecting to be praised but instead gets a bunch of shit from their typical yelly captain and then are told they will be forced to redo their training, participating both in a classroom lesson and a hands-on training exercise that will take place in an abandoned warehouse. Unfortunately for them, in the same place at the same time a pair of rival gangs are fighting over I guess the briefcase from Pulp Fiction as its life-altering contents are never revealed to us. The SWAT team is forced to take on these guys with the major hook being their lack of real weaponry but they get armed up pretty fast so that hardly plays a part.
This movie is silly, and I mean intentionally so. The characters are often trading quips and jokes and occasionally some of it lands but a lot of it feels forced. It also causes all of the characters, both the good guys and the bad guys, to blend together as nobody has a distinct personality. They are all just smart asses. Austin initially seems like he will be the serious guy as he is the leader but nope, he is just as big a goofball as the rest of them. Like I said, some of it works but it also creates that feeling of “why should I give a shit about their peril if they don’t seem to give a shit about it?”
Austin and White are definitely the two highlights, and although I still find Austin appealing as a lead, he just can’t compare with White who consistently outshines him. The guy is just so god damn charismatic! He’s definitely being sillier here than in the other movies I’ve watched recently with him and he only gets a couple of fight scenes which is definitely disappointing. While a lot of the attempts at humour do fall flat, White gets the majority of the ones that work purely because of his delivery. I quite liked when the bad guy asked him if he had any last words and after a moment’s thought he simply says “Fuck you?”, actually phrasing it as a confused question. I guess you had to be there because on paper it doesn’t work at all. Austin also gets a couple of pretty good one liners though nothing too memorable.
I already mentioned my biggest issue with the characters but let’s keep going on that for a little bit. Having a group of characters who do nothing but try and outdo each other with “witty” dialogue only works in a small number of movies and this is definitely not one of them. The dialogue often comes off as forced and most of the humour just doesn’t work. The latter is especially detrimental since everybody is acting like such a god damn goof all the time. A couple of the bad guys I guess are kind of serious like the lady henchman but even she does a goofy little dance when she comes across some weapons.
Also poor Lexa Doig really gets the shaft as the female member of the team. I was pretty excited to see her since of course she was the star of Jason X (a movie I will never stop loving) but she contributes literally nothing. At one point it looks like she is maybe going to get her own fight scene but she immediately starts getting the shit kicked out of her and has to be saved by Austin. Then from that point forward she is either behind held hostage or just standing on the sidelines. It’s too bad she is completely wasted like this.
The action is eh. There’s a couple of ok fight scenes though one of the later ones has this weird shaking effect going on that is completely unnecessary and its inclusion takes away from the scene. White also gets a couple of way too short bouts and the rest of the movie is mostly spent watching people shoot at each other from opposite sides of a room. Again, how in the fuck can nobody hit Austin when he’s not moving quickly? At one point he’s literally standing still waiting for a door to open and still nobody can hit him! His size makes it so easy! I don’t get it bad guys, you really need to bone up on your aiming right away.
Oh one last thing – I’m not convinced the ending makes any god damn sense. There’s a revelation in the final minutes involving a character previously thought to be deceased that comes completely out of nowhere, serves no purpose and is never properly explained. The writers seem to think that by having the characters also acknowledge this twist makes no sense, it makes it all ok. They are wrong. That shit makes no sense guys! You’re being paid to write shit that makes sense and you are failing at that! I assume the explanation is “magic” because it’s the only plausible explanation. There is another part where a character is shot in the head despite the gun being pointed at his shoulder so perhaps magic isn’t all that far off actually.
Outside of the presence of Austin and White, there’s nothing really going on here. There are some ok beats action wise but mostly there is a lot of not so funny humour. I really, really hope this isn’t the only team-up White and Austin do as there is some definite potential for greatness there. It’s not god awful, it’s watchable and I was never bored, it just doesn’t leave an impression in any way.