American Force: The Brave Platoon (1988)

Directed by: Phillip Ko
Written by: Benny Ho
Producers: Joseph Lai & Betty Chan
Starring: Patrick Frzebear, Hans Haraldser, Barry Gibson, Thomas Johnson, Eric Coldman, John Allan & Bobby Taylor

When IFD made the switch from ninja action to modern gunplay, kickboxing, cops and robbers and war, their cut and paste formula started to feel less colorful since it no longer had the juxtaposition between acquired source movie and the constant clashes between ninja clans. Logically it would as an effect now feel like a product merging footage from old crew and IFD's own that's more even in tone and even realistic. Mostly it meant an increasing number of dull movies as running around in rural and woodland areas without much vision for action wasn't the greatest formula. American Force: The Brave Platoon mostly gets away with it though by keeping quiet about what its doing.

The American Force of the title are brought in to take out emerging Russian leader Kalyshnikov (that's an approximation of the name as it seems the dubbers change it up too from scene to scene) who's working with presumably a Filipino (since that's where the original movie is from) group of revolutionaries. In a battle themselves with an opposing group, both want great things for the nation but can they set aside their differences and stop the violence?

Making itself look artificially big via stock footage of a fleet of ships commanded by unnamed army, IFD fairly smoothly gets the exposition dumps out of the way by introducing what will remain a rather anonymous force of heroes named Randy Nolan, Billy 'The Kid' Lee and Andrew Robinson. Anonymous because they are not in the movie a whole lot as expected but also because IFD keeps their inclusion (having to do with action and violence) at a rather mild frequency. Yes, there's focus on gunplay and some beats are even tense and exciting but you're more likely to go 'aha, there were white people in this too' than remember the force in question.

That said, they are integrated well enough because the scenes in the woodland areas outside of Hong Kong looks similar enough to our stretches with Filipino war here and that's obviously the intent. Not drawing attention to themselves and not transferring the flash from the ninja-movies is a gamble that pays off here. Clearly a low budget village and forest-set action picture originally, the makers out of the Philippines may not dazzle you with set pieces and by the end a lot of the shooting back and forth feels repetitive. However, filmmakers do show a knack for cutting it all together for gritty, ugly effect at points. They too don't draw attention to themselves but they don't come off as mild craftsmen of village warfare either. There's something snappy here and that something survives almost an entire picture.

But in a way you're glad IFD has a finale with some slow motion, tense beats and squibs for us, despite again forgetting there's Americans, forces, bravery and platoons present. An even tone and quality across the board is something you don't expect for the chosen content of IFD's for the series so the debut of the 'series' maintains a standard that's acceptable funnily enough.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson