Lethal Force (2001)
By: Julian on July 16, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Unearthed Films (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 70 minutes
The Movie
Director Alvin Ecarma
Starring Cash Flagg Jr., Frank Prather, Patricia Williams, Andrew Hewitt Screenplay Alvin Ecarma
Music Gerard K. Marino
Tagline In this town, two wrongs don't make you right - they make you even!
Country USA
Independent films, especially ones made in the past ten years, tend to polarise filmgoers. They're either loved or loathed, and the punters sitting in the latter camp often do so because there is bigger and better out there. However indie films, particularly those of the action and horror genre, have a lot going for them. They have an undeniable charm, an atmosphere that can't be emulated by even the best-budgeted production.

A charm that Lethal Force has in spades.

Sure it's cheap and poorly acted, the sound is variable and the cinematography crappy, but there is a cool little film in amongst everything. And, while the declaration on the DVD sleeve that Lethal Force 'is to action as Scream was to horror' is a bit rich, screenwriter and director Alvin Ecarma has nevertheless created an effective and refreshing parody of the big-budget Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis films.

Lethal Force is the story of a two-bit gangster Jack (Frank Prather) sent on an assassination mission by Mal, a deranged mobster. However, this is no ordinary assassination mission: the target is Savitch (Cash Flagg Jr), Jack's best friend. And, as a something of an incentive, Mal kidnaps Jack's son and brutally executes his wife. Left with no other option, Jack must betray and kill Savitch, who himself is a mentally unstable killer. The results are hilarious, and what ensues is an explosion of blood, guts and kung-fu chaos.

Boasting an artistic front cover that displays everything from the blaxploitation to the gore genres, Lethal Force was always going to be a mixed bag. I was most struck by the short, sharp bursts of brutality throughout the film, until it climaxed with a complete splatterfest. In this respect, as a genre parody/comedy, this is more reminiscent of Bad Taste than Scream – heads are blown off, drills are imbedded into skulls and tongues are ripped out of mouths, and the camera lingers with voyeuristic relish. Furthermore, Lethal Force is a prime example of technical incompetence, not least during a climactic swordfight in which the weapon is very obviously plastic (the blade waves as it is swung). Whether or not these 'mistakes' were intentional is arguable, but they're so blatantly obvious that Lethal Force falls firmly into the comedy genre many a time. The references to action films, from A Better Tomorrow to Pulp Fiction, are about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face, adding to the cult appeal.

The characters are a picture book of comic excess – from Jack the Tom Cruise lookalike, to a Fez-wearing lesbian uber-sadist and Savitch channelling Chow Yun Fat, there's something to please everyone. I enjoyed Lethal Force immensely, and for lovers of offbeat indie films, this is an unparalleled slice of cinematic gold. The gore, the goofs and the nutty dialogue (you're like a pencil – pointless) all make for a fantastic night in. However, Lethal Force lacks the sheer watchability value of some of its contemporaries. This isn't a film you're likely to revisit over and over, especially considering similar spoofs like the ones mentioned above are superior to this one. Regardless, this is a very decent minor cult classic that fans of the genre should get a good kick out of.
Disappointing. The film is presented in full-frame 4:3 aspect ratio and the picture is reminiscent of a DVD sold in bargain bins, not one released by a leading cult film distributor. Colours are murky and dull and you can see little during periods of darkness. In Unearthed's defense though, this is probably as good as Lethal Force is likely to get.
A sole soundtrack – English Dolby Digital 2.0. It's reasonable, but by no means excellent. There are a number of inaudible moments of speech, and the sound is generally dull. Again, it was probably the best audio of the film available.
Extra Features
A number of decent extras, the most noteworthy being a feature length commentary by Ecarma. The three director's shorts have to be the weirdest of the lot, with an eleven second film of a dog's cyst titled…yes, you guessed it – My Dog Has A Cyst. Calling this a 'short film' is a little bit ridiculous– it is, literally, eleven seconds of a dog's cyst. The two others, Me and A Conversation; both run about five minutes in duration and have a little more substance than watching a grotesque pustule on Ecarma's pet, though they're both fairly uninteresting. A few image galleries are also included, including production photos, poster art and an action figure gallery. The action figures aren't available to buy and are present simply for novelty value.

There were a number of trailers for other Unearthed discs, including Nails, Visions of Suffering, Frankenhooker, City of Rott, Bone Sickness, and Das Komabrutale Duell.

There seems to be an error with the Unearthed disc. Some of the options do not work when selected individually, and you must instead utilise the 'play all' button. I tried the disc on two DVD players and it didn't work on both occasions, and a post on the IMDb page for Lethal Force seems to confirm this.
The Verdict
How much you enjoy Lethal Force is exactly how much you can appreciate the aforementioned charm that runs through the film. Oscar-winning material this ain't: it's loud, brash and technically inept. But Ecarma shows a lot of style in his direction, and it is clear that he has a fondness for the films he parodies. If you like films from this genre (and this budget), then Lethal Force comes with a wholehearted recommendation.
Movie Score
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