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Feature


A routine investigation by a crack team of undercover narcotic agents becomes anything but when a deadly assassin begins to eliminate the members of the squad one by one. In a desperate bid to identify the culprit, and to train its officers in the martial arts in order to defend themselves, the police force attempts to enlist the help of Matt Logan, a noted karate champion.

Initially reluctant to become involved in any way, Logan soon changes his mind when his adopted son becomes the villain’s latest victim. Driven by sheer vengeance, he vows to track down the psychotic serial killer and bring the reign of terror to an end in a climactic battle between good and evil. (Taken from the PR.)

Video


A Force of One's 1.78:1 widescreen (1080/24p AVC) presentation is surprisingly good for a film of this vintage and budget. The image is detailed, at least as much as the original photography will allow,  with unobtrusive grain throughout. Both the colour palette and contrast are generally very natural, although skin tones can look a little red and the levels are prone to occasional fluctuation. Blooming isn't an issue, but shadow detail is a different story, with many scenes looking entirely too murky. However, I suspect that's due to the original photography as much as anything else. The main issue I have with the transfer is the presence of many film artefacts, some of which are distracting. I'm sure this sort of film artefact would engender nostalgic feelings in some people, but I for one am glad we left the poor quality VHS cassettes of yesteryear behind and am not as forgiving. Still, this is a surprisingly pleasant image given the source.

Audio


Viewers have two options here: a 2.0 track in LPCM or a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio remix. In truth the 5.1 track doesn't sound too different from the stereo effort, with what little surround activity there is coming through at such a low level you almost have to press you ear against the speaker to make it out. Other than that you get what you'd expect from a low-budget movie from the late seventies, which is to say muffled dialogue that is occasionally buried in the mix, a distinct lack of dynamic range and some fairly anaemic bass. Actually the sub-woofer does spring to life in a couple of scenes, but even then it lacks any real presence. Of course this isn't really the Blu-ray's fault, as you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but even so the end result is nothing more than functional.

Extras


Surprisingly the disc includes a fairly healthy selection of bonus material. I only use the word surprisingly because these days many high-profile titles have fewer extras, but with that said it's quality over quantity, right? While the commentary track from director Paul Aaron is welcome, it's a terribly dull affair with frequent, lengthy pauses that literally sent me to sleep (seriously, I dozed off). He does impart some interesting information (apparently he is Keanu Reeves' step-father), but the silence between interjections is deafening. Slightly better is 'How American Cinema Changed Hollywood Forever' (27:58 SD), a 2003 featurette that examines how the small, independent studio revolutionised the way movies were marketed and saw great success before ultimately imploding after being swallowed up by the Hollywood system. A 'Making of' (15:28 HD) featurette is next. It includes interview footage with various American Cinema employees, director Paul Aaron, actor Clu Gulager, composer Richard Halligan, along with clips from the film. Things are rounded off with the film's remastered original trailer (02:47 HD) and a TV spot (00:32 SD).

Overall


A Force of One chugs along at a lackadaisical pace that threatened to send me to sleep at times. It's a low-budget movie chock full of contrivances, hammy dialogue and wooden performances, and compared to today's impeccably choreographed action films even the martial arts leave a lot to be desired. With that said Norris does just enough to elevate it above some of the worst direct-to-video garbage I saw as a kid (but only just), and if you're a fan of either the man or the film this disc will almost certainly please. While not without its fault the film looks better than it has any right to and the audio, while unspectacular, gets the job done. The extras are a bit patchy, but at least some effort was made to include them.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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