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Monday, June 24, 2013

Film Of The Week: SPECIAL FORCES (2003)


SYNOPSIS:
An American journalist is kidnapped by rogue Eastern European forces while committing ethnic cleansing. A US special forces team headed by Major Harding and Talbot, a seasoned SAS operative attempt a rescue. after the attempted rescue is thwarted, the team members, except for Talbot, are either killed or captured. Armed with lethal martial arts ability, Talbot steps in to assist Harding in completing the mission.
Actor Scott Adkins is one of the most major milestone figures in action cinema history. I first discovered him in an an action scene for the television show Mutant X, though he was mostly an unknown at the time.

Eventually his career would lead him to future roles in TV and film spanning from the U.K. to H.K., including films like Extreme Challenge and Black Mask 2: City Of Masks. Fast forward to 2013, where his talents in acting and screen fighting have granted him to become one of action stars with a huge fanbase worldwide. And while some of his films favor differently for people, most notably the highly acclaimed Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing, and Undisputed 3: Redemption, one of his earliest films stands out the most to me: Special Forces.

The film was my second experience with an Isaac Florentine movie upon renting it from the video store, and thankfully I knew who he was after watching U.S. Seals 2: The Ultimate Force, on top of already being a fav of television shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and WMAC Masters.  Florentine is one of the best directors I have seen translate Hong Kong-stylized action sequences for the American market, next to Corey Yuen (No Retreat No Surrender) and Steve Wang (Guyver 2: Dark Hero, Drive) to name a few. And with Hong Kong action reaching its peak in North America in the early 2000s with Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh leading the crossover, Florentine could not have come onto the scene at a better time.

Marshall R. Teague and Eli Danker star, respectively, as Army Major Harding, whose latest mission finds him crossing paths with with an old enemy, a psychotic Colonel Rafendek, who seizes command of the military of the former Soviet republic of Muldonia. Supporting Teague's character is actor Tim Abell, who was most known to me from another military-based television action series called Soldier Of Fortune. He plays the Major's closest confidant, Jess, who makes sure the Major has his head on straight and is focused on the mission, despite confronting the very man who brought him at the closest to death he has ever been.


Together, their team, played by T.J. Rotolo, Troy Mittleider and Daniel Lee Clark, go behind enemy lines to locate the camp and rescue the Colonel's hostage, Wendy, played by Daniella Deutscher, an American reporter who gets kidnapped while trying to capture his atrocities on film.

Soon, under the cover of night, our heroes find themselves under heavy enemy fire until a rogue operative rescues them. They later discover he is a British intelligence officer named Talbot, played very well by Adkins, who spent years undercover spying on the military while waiting for the right moment to get even with the Colonel's right hand man, who kills his partner, Zaman, played by Vladislavas Jacukevicius, earlier in the film.


The plot thickens when film the team's pivotal rescue is sabotaged and they find themselves ambushed by Rafendek's entire military. With nowhere to turn, Harding and his crew are immediately cornered by Rafendek and his man. And only Talbot can save the Major and give him a fighting chance to rescue Wendy and finish Rafendek off once and for all.

David N. White provided the screenplay for the film, which serves as an almost perfect, low-budget non-stop actiom spectacle, full of its share of heroic bloodshed, vengeance, patriotic  and quality martial arts action. The fight scenes were served exquisitely by Florentine vision, along with stunt coordinators Hiro Koda and Alpha Stunts founding member Akihiro "Yuji" Noguchi who designed the film's action sequences very brilliantly. And each actor had a moment to shine, with scenes that were shot excellently to suit the very stylizings of Asian action cinema. Teague, himself, is a very talented actor, having done action roles before, including his exemplary performance as the villain opposite the late Patrick Swayze in the 1989 action thriller, Road House. I saw him in U.S. Seals 2 prior to Special Forces, along with his role as one of the astronauts in the 1998 diaster movie, Armageddon, and considering what happened in that film, I was glad to see him back on the screen with a more significant role. And I would have loved to have seen him in more films with Florentine, or in other action films to this day.

To be honest though, the real milk and cookies of this movie comes in the form of Scott Adkins, who does not hesitate to impress for the camera in the least bit, pulling some of the sickest moves I have seen on screen, in addition to one of the most memorable fight scenes ever choreographed for a movie between him and Jacukevicius. It is this particular scene that was most reminiscent of the classic fight scene between Jackie Chan and Benny "The Jet" Urquidez in Wheels On Meals. The mechanics of that fight scene are so brilliant that at one point I was literally howling at the screen because it was so awesome to watch. And it is fight scenes like this which only further my opinion highlighting the recognition and extra backing that filmmakers like Florentine deserve.

The bottom line: Special Forces aims to please any action fan looking for a good film to escape reality with. It was a great vehicle for Adkins and Florentine to share, beginning a fruitful and lasting trend that have earned them their popularity among action fans on an international level.

And from there, the legacy continues with the upcoming release of the action sequel follow-up, Ninja 2. Stay tuned for trailer news and the film's release. 

Special Forces is currently available where DVDs are sold.

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