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Avenging Force (1986)

I actually had to go back and double check, because I couldn't believe it--this is the first Cannon film I've covered on the blog. And in that regard, it's really hard not to consider my collected body of work here an abject failure. But I'm gonna make it right, and I've brought with me one of the best, most fun entries in the Golan-Globus cannon (uh, ahem).

Avenging Force (1986) is the sequel to Cannon's 1985 financially successful romp, Invasion U.S.A., this time with Michael Dudikoff in the role of Matt Hunter, after Chuck Norris turned it down. Dudikoff was fresh off American Ninja, where he single-handedly popularized ninjas in American culture. If you were alive in the 80's and early 90's, you know exactly just what the hell I'm talking about. (And, oh gosh, now I can't help but fantasize about a sequel to Avenging Force starring Charles Bronson and thereby having an entire film series with all three of Cannon's signature leading men.)

Hunter, since retired after the shenanigans in Invasion U.S.A., lives with his sister and grandfather on a farm in Louisiana. For some reason, as well as being the best solider and Secret Service agent on the planet, he's also incredible at lassoing bulls on horseback. But his farmhand skills are no match for the plot, as he and his family must drive into New Orleans to meet up with Larry Richards (Steve James), an old war buddy, who is running for U.S. Senator.

After a lovely dinner, the two families head to a Mardi Gras parade, where Richards, as a politician, must man one of the floats with his children. There, gunmen from John P. Ryan's white supremacist terrorist organization (and hunting club), the Pentangle, open fire, killing Richards' young son. Hunter and Richards then embark on a violent and bonkers journey of revenge.

When this section of the movie begins, and Steve James is running around shirtless doing karate on everybody and throwing goons off roofs, I can't help but think: this guy is running for Senator of the United States! Your move, Cory Booker.

I've glossed over John P. Ryan's role in this film, and that's a friggin' crime. If you're reading this blog, there's a 100% chance you believe there's nothing finer on earth than John P. Ryan chewing the scenery as a villain in a Cannon film. Despite how cartoonish the role actually is, Ryan somehow finds a way to elevate the material into a realm this movie doesn't deserve.

Did I also mention, that aside from carrying out violent, domestic attacks of terror, the Pentangle has a hunting club, where they The wonderful cold open has two men being chased through the swamp by a guy in a white slasher mask wielding a samurai sword--all before one of them is speared with a trident by a large man sporting an executioner's mask. After you're done reading that last sentence, it is my legal obligation to inform you that Avenging Force is currently playing on Starz Encore On Demand.

It could just be the New Orleans locale or The Most Dangerous Game element, but this film provides me the exact same bonkers head rush that John Woo's Hard Target does. There's that same raucous, okay-I-guess-we're-doing-this-now kinda vibe. You could easily imagine Jean-Claude Van Damme walking into any scene in Avenging Force and punching a snake in the face.

Though director Sam Firstenberg is most known for directing American Ninja, this is by far his best work. Cannon being Cannon, you're going to get the clunky stuff, stilted dialogue, and weak character work, but Firstenberg takes the $4.7 million budget he has and creates what feels like a gigantic film. The action set pieces are huge, the geography is clear, and the scope epic. There's a scene towards the end when Dudikoff comes up on a small rural, cajun community, and it's shot just like the scene at the end of Walter Hill's Southern Comfort. Therefore, there's a groundedness to the film where none should exist.

Watch this movie, dammit.

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