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Tactical Force


May leave discriminating action fans ‘Stone Cold’

Rod Lott August 11th, 2011

Had "Stone Cold" Steve Austin been born about 20 years earlier, he could have had a brief but decent big-screen career as a rival to Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris. Instead, his small role in last summer's smash "The Expendables" excepted, the former pro wrestler has been relegated to straight-to-DVD fare since fronting the box-office dud "The Condemned."

tacticalforce

He seems not to mind.

The new "Tactical Force" takes the same route as Austin's recent star vehicles "The Stranger" and "Hunt to Kill," being a mildly diverting, no-brain actioner that would've made a modest profit in the 1980s under the banner of Cannon Films.

After successfully completing their 30th mission — defusing a hostage situation in a Pepsi-overstocked grocery store via deft use of a tenderloin steak and a BB gun — the LAPD S.W.A.T. team headed by Capt. Tate (Austin) gets reprimanded for racking up property damage, and sent to an abandoned hangar to run training drills.

They show up at the same time as representatives from two gangs — one of them Russian, including a femme fatale (Candace Elaine) who appears to have had her face reshaped to resemble Donatella Versace, sadly. One of Tate's teammates is slain, and it's a three-way firefight from there on out.

That's where "Tactical Force" enters a generic stage to which it sticks for its remainder. While its setup initially reminded me of Walter Hill's "Trespass" from 1992, its execution is less than inspired. None of the budda-budda-budda exchanges of open fire compare to the fun hinted in the opening grocery-store sequence; a stairway scuffle showcasing Michael Jai White ("Black Dynamite") comes closest. In fact, White is more of a screen-commanding presence than Austin; it's he who should be leading this team, although I had to cringe when he delivered his big catchphrase of "Eat my grandma!"


One minor detail about writer/director Adamo P. Cultraro's film that majorly bugs me: In both the beginning and the end, his camera goes out of its way to show viewers the Confederate flag sticker in Tate's S.W.A.T. vehicle, yet his team is multiculti. You're telling me White's character especially wouldn't have a problem with this? He's riding shotgun; he can't not see it!

OK, one more: Cultraro seems seemingly incapable of scripting a passage of dialogue without the F-word, to the point where it becomes a real distraction. Not that I'm a prude toward profanity in movies — or the workplace, to be transparent — but when it's unnecessary, when it's as omnipresent as "a" or "the," it strikes me as lazy screenwriting. He's competent enough behind the camera, so there's no point to all the swearing swagger. The guns and muscles provide all the intimidation the characters require.

Vivendi's Blu-ray contains a 10-minute featurette (in which its star makes no apologies for "Tactical Force" being an "entertainment vehicle — no more, no less") and a high-BPM music-video-style presentation of all the film's punches and kicks, labeled as "Fight Sequence." That extra may be enough for Austin's fans who've worshipped him since the mat. —Rod Lott

 
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