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Attack Force

Director: Michael Keusch
Cast: Steven Seagal, David Kennedy, Adam Croasdell

(Sony Pictures; US DVD: 5 Dec 2006)

If the mere presence of Steven Seagal on the DVD’s cover isn’t enough to provide an idea of what you’re getting into with Attack Force, look no further than the film’s title.  Two words comprise the name of this direct-to-DVD outing.  The first one is “attack”, which means, roughly, “to begin fighting with”.  The second is “force” which, though in this case is probably meant to be used as a noun, can also be used as a transitive verb meaning “to compel by physical means”. That’s two tough words, brimming with ass-kickin’ testosterone, placed right next to each other to forge an incredibly generic title, one that makes no bones about what this movie, at its core, is all about. 


In higher concept films, the title doesn’t explain things quite so directly.  For instance, you might not see a single seal, let alone seven, playing with an inflatable ball on the dismal beaches of medieval Sweden in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.  In Attack Force, you know before even picking it up that you’re guaranteed to see the film’s two titular concepts at work.     


Attack Force begins with a brief and inexplicable introductory sequence featuring stripper pelvises gyrating in slow motion, blurred in a way that makes you feel much like you felt at age 12, trying to desperately to catch sight of a recognizable boob while watching a scrambled porn channel on cable.  Then the movie actually starts, and doesn’t take long at all to get cookin’—in fact, the time elapsed between the point at which Steven Seagal’s truck first rolls onto the screen and when people begin gunning each other down, is exactly 36 seconds. 


The Majestic Research Facility is being burgled, and there is only one man who can stop it—one man and an elite team of soldiers who are all killed off in a matter of minutes.  Steven Seagal plays a well respected yet roguish military man named Marshall Lawson (yes, seriously) and he chases down the final straggling interloper to engage the black clad intruder in hand-to-hand combat, punctuated by special effects that look like a director trying to do The Matrix on a high school play’s budget. 


Shortly after this debacle, Marshall Lawson is relocated to France (informatively identified as “France, Europe” at the bottom of the screen) where he is greeted by a crew of sycophantic, highly-trained elite soldiers who are clearly marked for death from their first moment on screen.  After discussing, in not so many words, how it is indeed “martial law, son” when Marshall Lawson is in town, these Ugly Americans end up, serendipitously, in a strip club that doubles as home base for at least one murderous, vaguely S&M-ish hooker.  The thrtee buddies are killed off quite quickly by the lady of ill repute, who is later revealed to have been on a new club drug called CTX, which is, of course, actually a government engineered super-soldier serum that turns the taker into an angry kung-fu killing machine.  Nonetheless, the femme fatale assailant is attractive enough to make going home with her still probably worth it, even knowing full well about her tendency toward drug-addled, murderous rage. 


The raspy voiced Marshall Lawson wants to know the truth about the death of his so recently murdered elite strike force, and sends his sidekick Dwayne (David Kennedy) to the aforementioned Titty Bar of Death.  He tries to get to the bottom of things, and, for a guy who is on the bad side of both a military black op and a band of superhuman drug addicts, keeps his cool quite impressively.  The story that unfolds is brimming with high-level government conspiracies and unlikely alliances, all of which make very little sense.  At the heart of the madness is Aroon (Adam Croasdell), a former military scientist gone AWOL, and who has hatched some sort of nefarious scheme involving CTX, France’s water supply, and a smokin’ hot lady who hangs out in ominous looking catacombs and kills people.   


Aroon has an accent just British enough to identify him as super-villainish, and has some sort of professional relationship with a Parisian cop, whose accent is just French enough to identify him as cowardly and duplicitous.  Nobody can seem to keep Aroon locked up for very long, and he flees for a small village to hatch his plot.  This gives Marshall Lawson an excuse to, with the help of his government agent friend and occasional make-out buddy Tia, raid the top-secret weapon’s locker of the whole friggin’ military-industrial complex, and put together yet another team of elite soldiers, the third thus far.  The search for those addicted to CTX begins in a pseudo-military action that, at the very least, violates the Geneva Conventions.  The stage is then set for a final battle in which the One-Inch Punch is utilized to send people flying through brick walls more times than you’d ever previously imagined possible.
   
Attack Force is Seagal’s third direct-to-DVD feature this year, and from his character’s tongue-in-cheek name on through the film’s barely fleshed-out plot, it’s clear that he’s content to be the best Steven Seagal he can be, and purports to be nothing else.  He phones-in a performance as a stoned-faced martial artist who barely opens his mouth when he speaks, and who is, like the film itself, fascinatingly one-dimensional.  He’s no longer the Ancient Greek ideal of Steven Seagal, the way he’s pictured on the DVD’s cover.  Instead, he’s grown slightly jowly, a fact highlighted by all of the close-up shots of his face at its most jellyfish-like during fight scenes.  These shots seem to fill most of the places where you might expect to find well-choreographed action sequences. 


Given that this film is at some points ludicrously generic and at other points completely nonsensical, one wonders how seriously Seagal is taking the b-action genre at this point.  The fact that he’s alleged to be starring in an upcoming movie created by the writers of satirical newspaper The Onion as a character named “Cock Puncher” gives the impression that he understands his place in the cinematic milieu quite well.  If churning out direct-to-DVD Crapfests with plot holes a mile wide is Seagal’s M.O. these days, Attack Force is Seagal as usual, and if you can’t get enough of the pony-tailed Aikido champion doing his thing, this DVD offers 95 brand new minutes of it.  Perhaps it’s no shock to Seagal’s most hardcore adherents, but the wooden acting, bargain basement special effects, and bizarre excursions into sci-fi territory make for a film that isn’t as wholly unwatchable as it is charmingly crappy.  It’s almost a boon to the viewer that there’s nary a single DVD special feature on the disc to explain away, or detract from, the forceful attack of the film’s unapologetically b-grade sensibility.

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