Someone is targeting a squad of undercover narcotics detectives, killing them by taking them by surprise and breaking their necks before they even have a chance fight back. Lt. Dunne (Clu Gulager) doesn’t like seeing his best detectives getting murdered so he orders all of them — including Mandy Rust (Jennifer O’Niell) and Rollins (Superfly himself, Ron O’Neal) — to take martial arts training so that they can defend themselves. And who better to train them than karate champ and dojo owner, Matt Logan (Chuck Norris)? The no-nonsense Logan teaches the detectives a few moves and even starts a tentative romance with Mandy. But when his adopted son (played by future director Eric Laneuville) is murdered by the drug dealers, Logan goes from being a teacher to being an avenger.
Since today is Chuck Norris’s 80th birthday, it only seems appropriate to review one of Chuck Norris’s better films. A Force of One was made at a time when Chuck was still trying to make the transition from being the karate instructor to the star to being a star himself. Norris had been disappointed by his previous few starring vehicles, all of which strangely played down Norris’s martial arts skills. After his friend and student, Steve McQueen, told Chuck that he needed to specialize in playing strong, silent types, Norris followed his advise with A Force Of One, which features considerably less dialogue than Norris’s previous films but also a lot more fighting.
Though the character may be named Matt Logan, Chuck Norris is basically playing himself in A Force of One. In the scenes where he’s training the detectives and talking about why he’s personally so opposed to drugs, Chuck comes across as so earnest that it doesn’t matter that he’s not much of an actor. What he’s always lacked in range, Chuck makes up for in general badassery and A Force Of One features him at his most badass. Chuck’s final fight with the ninja assassin is one of his best.
Jennifer O’Neill got top billing in A Force Of One and she and Chuck actually have decent romantic chemistry. She seems to bring him a little bit out of his shell and she’s also actually believable as a tough cop. Because this was early in Chuck’s career and the script was co-written by police procedural specialist Ernest Tidyman, A Force Of One spends as much time following round the other cops as it does with Chuck and the squad’s camaraderie is believable. The cops are all played by good character actors like Ron O’Neal, Clu Gulager, Pepe Serna, and James Whitmore Jr. and they all give pretty good performance while, at the same time, not upstaging Chuck.
One final note: There’s a scene where Chuck and Jennifer O’Neill are in an evidence room. Keep an eye out for a box that is labeled K. Reeves. That’s a reference to director Paul Aaron’s stepson, Keanu Reeves, who worked as a production assistant on this film.