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Maximum Force
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by Jack Sommersby

"As Disposable and Generic As Its Title"
1 stars

It's easy to see why this turkey went straight to home video in that it hasn't a single good scene to its credit.

In the low-grade action picture Maximum Force, that questionable actor Sam J. Jones who made a good-natured but overall underwhelming screen debut as the hero in the 1981 Flash Gordon is backlit so much throughout that I had a hard time making out his face in several scenes, a problem that was compounded in that most of the movie takes place either at night or in darkened rooms, thus rendering him borderline undistinguishable. He plays Los Angeles super cop Michael Crews who’s recruited by the veteran police Captain Fuller (the typically wonderful B-actor John Saxon) to infiltrate and take out the city’s leading crime lord Max Tanabe (another reliable B-actor, Richard Lynch) who Fuller has been trying to bust for fifteen years, who has the corrupt mayor and chief of police’s assistant in his pocket, and who was responsible for the death of Crews’ partner. This is to be a clandestine operation, and Crews won’t be working alone, for there’s also the take-no-guff policewoman Cody Randall (Sherrie Rose), whose younger brother overdosed on crack cocaine supplied to him by Tanabe, and another cop, electronics expert Rick Carver (Jason Lively), who was busted and suspended for illegal wiretapping on Tanabe. Because the department can’t be trusted, no one but Fuller will be privy to this operation’s existence, and this trio are sequestered to an empty warehouse where they’ll spend at least a month getting in shape and honing their particular skills, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in that what we’ve seen thus far indicates that they’re already functioning at the top of their game -- we soon find that this is just an excuse for a couple of ho-hum musical montages right out of the Rocky series where they get in that ’ol fighting shape, and that the songs played over these are so forgettable only accentuates their utter banality. And the dreadful dialogue doesn’t do the movie any favors, either, as when someone tells Crews that he’s buying himself a lot of trouble, and he replies, “Me and trouble are good friends.” Perhaps a truly talented director could’ve staged enough in the way of exciting action sequences to make up for the shopworn material, but Joseph Merhi, who’s helmed twenty movies in sixteen years by the dubious likes of L.A. Heat and L.A. Vice, goes about matters in the most mechanical manner imaginable -- it’s painfully routine stuff that isn’t any more alacritous than you’d get in your average television cop show. Another considerable weakness is the lack of chemistry among the three cops that’s oodles less vital than the brothers-in-arms kinship that, say, those in Burt Reynolds’s sensational Sharky’s Machine had in spades. (The standout among them is Lively, best remembered as the son in the dreadful National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and who brings some welcome comic spin to his nerdy-but-resourceful role.) Maximum Force is neither deftly plotted nor interestingly detailed enough to make much of an impression, and with the dire lack of immediacy to the proceedings you’re not swept along by anything indicative of visceral intensity, especially since Tanabe isn’t a particularly menacing villain we’d be rooting for a spectacularly violent demise. (Don’t blame Lynch; blame the lackadaisical script). The only real pleasure I derived from the movie was the game supporting performance by none other than Mickey Rooney, portraying the black-hearted police commissioner. In just a couple of scenes, Rooney projects such quintessential sleaze you expect him to leave a slime trail wherever he goes. Unlike Jones, he’s willing to have his wonderfully weathered face fully photographed to our delight.

Pathetic and painfully obvious.

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originally posted: 06/29/15 11:23:20
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  07-Oct-1992 (R)



Directed by
  Joseph Merhi

Written by
  John Weidner,
  Ken Lamplugh

  Sam J. Jones
  Sherrie Rose
  Jason Lively
  John Saxon
  Richard Lynch

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