When a film starts with a bunch of masked weirdos stalking a couple of dudes through the Bayou which was preceded by the Cannon logo, you know you’ll in for a great time.
Retired Secret Service agent Matt Hunter is visiting his best friend Larry who is running to be a Senator. At a Mardi Gras parade, there is an attempt on the life of Larry and tragedy strikes. It turns out the people after him are the Pentangle, a bunch of rather unpleasant white supremacists led by the legendary John P. Ryan (Bronson’s nemesis in Death Wish 4 and countless other bad guy roles.)
These guys are just plain nasty and hate basically everyone particularly black people and Mexicans. They are also connected with big business and the government. As a little sideline, they also like to hunt professionals such as ex-military for sport. Just a few years later Jean Claude Van Damme would come across similar escapades in John Woo’s Hard Target, but I digress.
Hunter seeks the assistance of his old boss but they are possibly the most inept unorganised bunch of secret service agents ever and when they kidnap Hunter’s whiny little sister, our hero must go after them and play their twisted game.
A staple of practically every video shop in the 1980’s Avenging Force is just as entertaining now as it was when I first watched it with my family back in the Betamax days when it came out on the MGM/UA label in a big silver box.
Cannon knew what worked and putting together Michael Dudikoff and the ultra charismatic Steve James again after their American Ninja hijinks with their director Sam Firstenberg produced a first class piece of violent entertainment. The new remastering is pretty decent with a good 2 channel stereo mix which when converted though an amp produces some decent surround effects especially in the swamps. George Clinton’s end titles music plays like an American Ninja 2 main credits remix so was this Cannon saving some dollars and recycling their incidental music again?
Finally the climatic fight between Dudikoff and Ryan features possibly one of cinema’s worst stunt doubles. The fake wig which the stuntman wears has to be seen to be believed and had me replaying it again and again roaring with laughter.
Unlike the American Ninja films which although action orientated were a little silly and at times a bit camp, Avenging Force is played completely straight. The villains whilst a little cartoony are totally horrible and spew a fair bit of racist language. The violence can be brutal (and shocking) hence its still an ’18’ after all these years, although I watched it when I was about 14 and turned out alright.
I still found it immensely engaging and lots of fun and definitely worth checking out to see how good ‘Cannon Fodder’ could really be.
- Starring Michael Dudikoff Steve James John P. Ryan James Booth
- Directed by Sam Firstenberg
- Released by 88 Films