Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - July 9, 1983

Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic

Deadly Force is a unctuous little movie, a quilt of a film that takes its patches from just about all of the urban thrillers and cop series of the past decade.

As such, it's a confusion of styles and attitudes with a plot that swims around aimlessly, then is magically tied together with one of those strokes of inspiration that used to hit Sherlock Holmes just seconds before Moriarty would have gotten away.

Its hero is one Stoney Cooper, your basic ex-cop gun-for-hire. He's not a vigilante on a revenge binge, a la Charles Bronson in Death Wish, but a professional doing the dirty jobs that the cops can't manage because "the system" ties their hands.

There has been a string of weird murders in Los Angeles involving a disparate collection of victims from all over the city. Each is found with the letter "X" carved in his forehead.

There's a $250,000 reward out for the capture of the killer, dead or alive, and those are the kind of numbers Stoney understands. Besides, by going back home to Los Angeles, he'll be able to help an old pal whose daughter was victim No. 16, and reunite with his ex-wife, Eddie, a television reporter who, coincidentally, has been assigned to investigate the murders.

Stoney hits town and starts investigating like crazy. His method involves paying off street snitches, stealing police files and making endless calls on a pay phone in the rain.

All this furious and meaningless activity is interspersed with arguments between Stoney and Eddie, who lives in one of those giant, warehouse lofts that chic people inhabit in movies these days.

Stoney is played with lots of energy but not much coherence by Wings Hauser, a rough-hewn pretty-boy who seems to lack direction. Hauser was last seen in an execrable item called Vice Squad, where he played a psycho pimp who dismembered his hookers with a coat hanger.

He made a nice, kinky psycho precisely because he was playing against his soft-featured good looks. When he pulled out his coat hanger and his eyes took on that evil glow, it was truly unnerving. But here he's playing the macho hero, the James Bond of urban mercenaries, and he doesn't seem big enough or hard enough to carry it off.

Fact is, he seems a little pudgy, a little too much like one of the Brady Bunch after a few hard years and a bad marriage. And the case he's unraveling is so obvious that he has all of his brilliant deductions about a half hour after we do.

Joyce Ingalls is completely forget-table as his ex-wife, but Paul Shenar pulls off a strange supporting performance as Joshua Adams, the leader of a positive-attitude cult that figures into the proceedings. He's so smarmy it's almost beautiful, and his voice is pure radio sleaze.

People who go to these films hoping to see women butchered will be disappointed, I'm afraid. Virtually all of the killer's crimes take place off camera, and none are particularly gory.

There is one seriously erotic love scene between Stoney and Eddie that involves a hammock, but the director stuck a goofy song on the soundtrack that sucks the steam right out of it. You're not so much aroused by their love- making as amazed by their sense of balance.


Produced by Sandy Howard, directed by Paul Aaron, written by Ken Barnett, Barry Schneider and Robert Vincent O'Neil, photography by Norman Leigh and David Myers, music by Gary Scott, distributed by Embassy Pictures; running time, 1 hour, 37 mins.

Stoney Cooper - Wings Hauser

Eddie Cooper - Joyce Ingalls

Joshua Adams - Paul Shenar

Hoxley - Lincoln Kilpatrick

Parents' guide: R (nudity, obscenity, violence)


Philadelphia Daily News (PA) - July 13, 1983

Author: JOE BALTAKE, Daily News Movie Reviewer

"Deadly Force." An action drama starring Wings Hauser, Joyce Ingalls and Paul Shenar. Directed by Paul Aaron from an original script by Ken Barnett, Barry Schneider and Robert Vincent O'Neil. Photographed by Norman Leigh and David Myers. Edited by Roy Watts. Music by Gary Scott. Running time: 95 minutes. In area theaters.

Last year, producer Sandy Howard and star Wings Hauser teamed for an effectively lurid street thriller titled "Vice Squad," in which Hauser plays an amazingly resilient villain named Ramrod who has a penchant for using his Pimp's Stick, a nasty gadget, on his prostitutes.

"Vice Squad" has no redeeming moral values and only a few cinematic ones, but it's wonderfully demented fun, largely because of Hauser's menacing, scenery-chewing bravado. With his baby face with its sizable overbite and hair of ringlets, he makes the perfect psychotic villain. He's versatile, too, a point proven in the song he warbles over the end credits of "Vice Squad."

But Hauser isn't that versatile. Whoever had the bright idea of casting Hauser as the hero in Howard's "Deadly Force" immediately thwarted the film's chances of working as another grimy, low-down actioner. As a tough, efficient cop who yearns to be a pianist (a plot point similar to the one used in "Flashdance"), Hauser seems smaller - diminutive, almost squashed - and more than a little uninteresting.

What's more, the plot here is less kinky than the one employed in "Vice Squad." It is strictly TV stuff, with Hauser as the kind of cop who spends 99 percent of the screen time arguing with his superior (Lincoln Kilpatrick), his ex-wife (Joyce Ingalls) and the film's assorted creeps and criminals.

Actually, Hauser is a former cop here - a displaced Californian trying to make it big in the music biz in New York. He is summoned back to Los Angeles to solve a string of murders involving women and a knife-wielding fanatic. En route to the airport, he stops off to help out an old friend whose factory has been taken over by a human bomb.

Much more interesting than Hauser is Paul Shenar whose flaccid "pod" portrait of a sleazy entrepreneur who specializes in lectures on "change" and "success" is right out of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Ingalls, as Hauser's wife, a budding TV reporter, looks and sounds awful, providing the film with a genuinely comic streak of nastiness: she plays the kind of nitwit TV personality that stations like to team with palooka-types - you know, the newsroom stewardess and the landbound pilot.

Unfortunately, this is something "Deadly Force" never pursues. Its plot
keeps returning to Hauser who, when he isn't trying out his tonsils on someone he doesn't like or having his face pounded by one of the assorted creeps, moodily tinkles at the ivories.

Cripes! Bring back the Pimp Stick.

Parental Guide: Rated R for its violence and one fairly graphic softcore sex sequence.

No comments: