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Sometimes, a movie gains cult status because it pushes boundaries, bends minds, or plays at midnight every Friday and Saturday night in a theater that still allows smoking. Then, there are movies, like Force Five, which fall under the “cult” heading because they’re awesome to a few loyal fans and haven’t yet had a decent DVD release.

A defunct team of mercenaries gets the band back together to rescue a brainwashed senator’s daughter (Amanda Wyss, billed here as “Mandy” three years before she becomes Freddy Krueger’s first onscreen victim) from a weird cult. There are obvious Enter the Dragon comparisons, not only because the two movies are both directed by Robert Clouse. But the film is more than watchable, and even made me yell at the screen in glee and bloodlust as I am wont to do during a martial arts movie. Because it’s fun to make a bullet pointed smartass list, I’ll first tell you of the many ways in which Force Five paints a white man’s martial arts movie by the numbers.

  • at least two people thrown through windows
  • a slow motion motorcycle jump, also through a window
  • a pool hall beatdown
  • a female judo expert
  • fighting as foreplay
  • a guy so hardcore he chooses to be ripped in half wishbone style rather than answer the bad guys’ questions
  • a nutcase who owns his own island

And then, there is some shit I ain’t never seen before. For one thing, the titular force of five breaks into a prison to rescue a dude who doesn’t want to be broken out, mainly because his “cell” is decorated as a swingin’ bachelor pad complete with the warden’s comely daughter as a body pillow. Then the team makes a flaming barricade out of gasoline soaked mattresses. Also featured is a musical number of “Onward Christian Soldiers” earnestly sung while confetti falls from the ceiling, as well as a live bull in a labyrinth used as a method of capital punishment. Don’t tell the state of Texas about that plot point!

Most of all, though, Force Five has some good fight scenes. Damn good fight scenes. With Benny Urquidez and Richard Norton on the team, Joe Lewis is a little overshadowed as the lead, but not so that you don’t enjoy the final boss fight between him and the sometimes incorporeal cult leader. Who is, incidentally, played by a man named Bong (my kind of man) who also played the bad guy in the Enter the Dragon parody which was part of Kentucky Fried Movie. Talk about a snake swallowing its own tail!  This movie is definitely worth tracking down for martial arts fans, or fans of 80s movies which look like they were made in the 70s.

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