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Friday, February 13, 2015

Raw Force


Raw Force (aka Kung Fu Cannibals)
1982
Edward D. Murphy

(Original Review Here)

A group of martial artists are taking a cruise to visit, “Warrior Island,” a place supposedly haunted by the ghosts of disgraced martial artists. A local criminal has been trading women to the cannibal monks of the island in return for jade which he sells in town. He sets the ship ablaze in hopes of protecting his secret. The martial artists along with a few of the ship’s crew wash up on shore and find themselves facing gun toting criminals and zombie warriors. They have to find a way off Warrior Island before they are shot, beheaded, or even… eaten.
An early look at Spring Breakers 2
I’m still not sure how much of Raw Force is intended to be comedic. There are some obvious jokes, like the cruise ship’s P.A. announcements, “We are now departing. Those of you tossing money, they are again reminding you that the divers requested that you do not throw pennies, nickels, or dimes. Only quarters and above.” My personal favorite weird joke is the fact that an island full of evil cannibal monks has a glossy travel brochure. At the other end of the spectrum there are some gory deaths and the occasional brutal fight. These two elements aren’t used in any intelligent way to contrast each other, the entire film is entirely too slapdash for anything that thoughtful.

Incompetence doesn’t prevent Raw Force from being immensely entertaining. The total incongruities create an unpredictability that you just don’t get in modern film. A lurid nude scene might lead into a prolonged fight that cuts away to a slapstick joke and then suddenly a brutal murder. In keeping with its theme of the unpredictability, the movie occasionally dazzles with a great stunt or well choreographed fight. Characters vanish only to reappear thirty minutes later, ham-fisted romance sub-plots battle for time with a pointless mystery that our heroes have to puzzle out. Raw Force is smart enough to keep the plot (what there is of it) constantly moving and toss in some sex and/or violence whenever things threaten to slow down.
Best. Pinata. Ever.
The acting is uniformly bad. I’m willing to give actors whose primary function is to provide martial arts stunts a lot of leeway, but watching a seasoned actor like Cameron Mitchell slumming it as the grouchy captain of the ill-fated ship is embarrassing. He somehow manages to make his romantic subplot even less believable than his turn as an action hero. Raw Force’s one big misstep (by its own standards anyway) is not using Jillian Kesner as much as some her male counterparts. She proves early on that she can sell a screen fight just as well as the boys, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see her do more later on in the story.

Raw Force is a bizarre whirlwind of genre elements. There’s no way it should work, much less be so much fun to watch. It’s a unique film and one I would highly recommend seeking out. Vinegar Syndrome has produced a stellar Blu-ray that cleans up the film without losing a sight of it's low budget charm. Highly recommended.

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