Bargain bin finds: The Force Within

Carl digs deep into the bargain bin to find this, er, classic piece of forgotten cinema...

Considering the fate of last week’s thriller Edge Of Terror, I thought that I’d go back to the roots of every Bargain Bin, low budget action films! Well, it was either that or a WWE DVD.

This week it’s The Force Within, which seems like a cop on a rampage to save his family, judging by the front cover. It really, really wasn’t. In fact, all the characters on the front cover have less than five minutes screen time altogether. Reading the back is what really led me to buy this, just because it felt like it would be hilarious.

To summarise the blurb, a mob boss named Nick Larson, an oddly sensitive criminal, keeps his 16-year old girlfriend in jigsaw puzzles and Diet Coke — and New York City in pure crack and cocaine. This is the bit that sealed the deal though: “He surrounds himself with junkies, drunks, stooges, losers, corrupt police officers and mafia henchmen, while simultaneously taking time out of his morally corrupt day to teach the spiritual fundamentals of kung fu to a group of disadvantaged youngsters.” Seriously, how could I pass that up?

The film looks like it was recorded on a handheld camera, then played on TV with terrible reception, recorded onto VHS and shoved onto DVD. Not a good look. Still, I soldier on, so you don’t have to.

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To begin with, we join audience members at what turns out to be Nick Larson’s club, watching a lovely show of the most random proportions. Firstly, a stripper, followed by a ventriloquist, neither of which are remotely funny. This wastes 10 of the first 30 minutes, the rest of which is sort of, but not really, dedicated to the plot. 

Here’s what we do learn: Nick owns a club; Nick clearly doesn’t know how to book entertainment; people are scared of him, though for the life of me I cannot figure out why. That’s about it.

The next hour of the film just saunters by, but we do learn how Nick learned kung fu and what particular style he learned. This is absolutely bloody hilarious, as we find out a kung fu master found him under a bin, and brought him up as his own son. At this point, we get his life story, accompanied by a huge amount of stock footage from old martial arts movies, apparently showing how he was trained and what his family’ background is like. Apparently, his kung fu talent stems from “keeping his semen”, and yes, that is a direct quote. Basically he has a lot of sex, but doesn’t exactly… finish, as he only uses it to ‘charge up’ his martial arts skills. Even though it must be fun for him, I recommend he change his style, as he fights terribly.

In that sense at least, he’s not alone – all of the fights are awful, looking like unintentionally hilariously high school media project action. Especially when people get their throats cut, and it looks suspiciously like crayon. Anyway, the kung fu master sees Nick is on a bad road, and trains his new protégé in the same martial art, which naturally requires some pretty terrible montages. To add insult to injury, these are actually copied and pasted at least three times during the rest of the film.

Which brings me to the editing. It’s like watching a movie written by 10 year olds, filmed on a home camera, with sound running from one mic into a tape deck, horrid acting, awful characters, barely any plot, and no one to cheer on, except for maybe the kids being taught kung fu.

As for the actors playing these roles, have any of them done anything better with their lives? Stuart Steel, who is not only the lead, but also wrote and produced this drivel, has done nothing, ever, apart from this. Joseph Campanella, who despite being in three scenes finds himself on the front cover, has had some fantastic roles! He was The Lizard in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon, and has been in at least three US soaps with recurring roles. Apart from old Joe, everybody else in the cast’s story is pretty much the same as Stu Steel — awful. This film has ruined 99% of careers it has come into contact with. Outstanding.

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For a movie so bad that it not only uses stock footage, but also footage seen only 10 minutes previously in the film, it isn’t all bad! Yes, of course, it’s a terrible film, but it is laughably bad. It is so bad that it actually nearly jumps genres, from action thriller to spoof comedy. It must be tough to be that bad.

In the end, this is all about finding the good in a bad film. And to be honest, I’ve done my best.