Raw Force | Varied Celluloid

Raw Force

Posted by On August - 19 - 2010
Review submitted by our good friend Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: The movie introduces us to a mysterious island in the Philipines called Warrior’s Island. Run by a group of cultist monks, Warrior’s Island is a place where the souls of exiled and denounced warriors throughout Earth’s history are venerated and remembered for martial art skills. Through the power of cannibalizing women, the monks are able to bring the warriors back to life originally to protect the island from invaders, but mostly just to straight-up slaughter and murder anyone they come across. The monks are readily fed too because a slave trader named Speer is trading in beautiful young local women for a large supply of jade found in a mine on the island. So what happens when a boat-full of fun-loving, thrill-seeking Americans led by Cameron Mitchell himself stumble into the middle of this craziness? A zany, violent and sexy romp into Filipino Action-sploitation that can only be described… as Raw Force.

The Review
I really need to dig deeper into Filipino cinema; between this and Beast of the Yellow Night, I think I’m hooked. Raw Force is a fun blend of Action, sleaze, humor and Exploitation that, while not entirely seamless in presentation, is a well paced and acted movie. I’ve seen Action movies and games try being action-packed, violent and sleazy while having a sense of humor about themselves, but in a lot of cases they just don’t work. Either the media won’t have enough humor or will find some way to stop the action and ultimately contradict the fun one’s supposed to have. Raw Force has the exact amount of each aspects and themes that all balance out: the movie is cheesy, but never corny, the dialogue doesn’t make you want to kill yourself, the characters aren’t all bastards, the violence is visceral, the music is appropriate to the events and there’s a lot of action beats. Even when there isn’t a lot of action going on, the screen is still lit up by the antics of the tourists or the intense close-up of a naked woman will be looming no too far away in the next frame… it’s almost the perfect Action movie.

The action itself is quite entertaining. There’s a lot of martial arts going in several areas including a bar, a tightly confined ship passenger room and the top of said ship. Like any good martial arts action movie though the end result of the fight scene is often a climactic or clever death which Raw Force has plenty of. Those looking for gunplay in the movie won’t entirely be fulfilled until later on when Speer’s men attack the vacationers in a graveyard with various assault rifles and a bazooka even. Even the scenes where the zombies show up and start attacking the vacationers en masse are exciting and action packed.

Yes, the action scenes are certainly exciting and pretty well choreographed, though they aren’t perfect; the lighting in closed-in action scenes isn’t bright enough to catch all the details and the fighting against the samurai/ninja zombies gets a little incomprehensible. There’s one fight scene where an LA cop woman is fighting with the Kung Fu zombies near the end and while she’s armed, she’s fairly out numbered. However, after swinging her weapons at the zombies… they just randomly backflip away from her into the water around them. Why?? There’s even a scene where one of the main characters grabs a zombie’s sword, by simply pulling it from the zombie’s hands. And these zombies are supposed to be badasses?

Raw Force has a nice share of humor to it. The Speer the slave trader is a German guy with a Hitler mustache whose right hand-man is a stoner who leads his gang of goofy, neon color/hand-me-down wearing pirates, all of whom are serving a group of giggling monks. That alone should be enough to break the Goofy Meter, but I assure you it doesn’t stop there. There’s a birthday boat party scene packed with sexual humor and hijinks, the soundtrack has this silly plinkity-plink sound accompanying the dramatic scores and the boat Captain and owner share a comedic love/hate relationship. The fight scenes are pretty funny too: one random vacationer saves a criminal nympho by drowning her attacker in a toilet after Kung-Fu-ing the Hell out of him. If anything, halfway through the movie many of the zany vacationers are just forgotten about and the audience is forced to follow the main characters as they are forced onto the island.

I mentioned earlier that the movie is pretty sleazy and I wasn’t kidding. The movie starts out with Speer and his gang delivering shanghaied women to the cannibal monks before stripping them naked. Many of the frames in the first half of the movie works-in almost as much female nudity as possible. From then on, the main characters go to a strip club and one of the crew members has a birthday party where almost everyone tries to get into everyone else’s pants. There’s even a fight scene at a bar where a super foxy Filipino woman slow dances nude throughout the entire fight. God bless her.

Cameron Mitchell isn’t too bad in this movie as he plays a tired boat captain who is constantly complaining about its rich cougar of an owner and how unstable the ship is. It’s also worth mentioning that the owner of the boat, Hazel, is played by an executive producer to Space Mutiny (who by the way also isn’t half bad here) which also starred Cameron Mitchell.

Funny enough this movie stars an actor from Plan 9 From Outer Space! Yes, Patrolman Larry stars as a hip, mustachioed and overall hilarious drunk swinger… and he’s actually pretty good. In fact, a lot of the performances are pretty entertaining even from the one-time actors like the head-butting bartender and even the birthday boy on the boat. Vic Diaz shows up in this one and it was nice to see him again, but his role feels more like a cameo, like seeing the maniacal Gabrielle Carrara pop up in a modern Action movie (which would be fantastic, by the way). Vic doesn’t play a smooth talking intelligent Satan this time, but instead spends most of the movie in a monk’s rob giggling away and clapping his hands as zombie samurai rise from the grave… so basically he’s acting how I acted when I first got a strip tease (ahem).

There are a few flops in the movie especially in continuity. There’s a fight scene where a chunky passenger’s hat falls off and reappears on his head during the fight. There’s a lot of abrupt scene cuts in the movie, too, where the music and the laughing of an actor will just stop and cut to the next scene. Also, when the ship is on fire the flames are clearly superimposed over the film as the bottom of the flames – supposedly coming from behind the objects – appear over the objects as the camera moves. I particularly like how every character who gets strangled has their mouth closed when it happens, but the sound of someone gargling their throat with an open mouth is overlaid. Then there’s the fact that a character gets sprayed with gasoline by a pirate, but Cameron Mitchell saves him by firing at the pirate… but firing a gun so close to a gasoline soaked guy would probably light him on fire. Okay, now I’m just nit picking.

Honestly, the only aspect that really gets to me is the fact that this movie ends with a ‘To Be Continued’ title card, but there was no sequel. WHY?! So there’s never going to be an Axelay 2, a Scurge 2 and now there’s no Raw Force 2?? It always makes me sad when the promise of continuation is never delivered.

The Conclusion
Raw Force is a lot of fun both in its exploitation, action and humor. It’s crammed with Kung-Fu, some shooting action, sleaze and goofiness to the point where it could be a great party movie.




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