(US - 1983)
Directed by Paul Aaron. Written by Ken Barnett, Barry Schneider and Robert Vincent O'Neil. Cast: Wings Hauser, Joyce Ingalls, Paul Shenar, Al Ruscio, Arlen Dean Snyder, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Bud Ekins, J. Victor Lopez, Hector Elias, Ramon Franco, Gina Gallego, Paul Benjamin, Big Yank, Estelle Getty, Victoria Vanderkloot, Richard Beauchamp, Ned Eisenberg, Frank Ronzio. (R, 96 mins)
Wings Hauser made such a memorable impression as psycho pimp Ramrod in the grimy 1982 sleeper hit and cable cult favorite VICE SQUAD (he even sang the theme song) that producer Sandy Howard rewarded him with the hero lead in the next year's DEADLY FORCE. Born in 1947, Hauser began his career in the late 1960s with small roles in movies, TV, and on daytime soaps, first gaining notoriety on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in 1977. He even tried to start a music career, releasing an album on RCA in 1975 titled Your Love Keeps Me Off the Streets, recorded under the name "Wings Livinryte." Though he would occasionally land supporting roles in prestigious projects both award-winning (1984's A SOLDIER'S STORY, 1999's THE INSIDER) and woefully misbegotten (1987's TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE), Hauser is best known for his many B-movies in the '80s and '90s, including 1984's MUTANT, 1989's THE SIEGE OF FIREBASE GLORIA, and 1990's STREET ASYLUM, which paired him with the unlikely G. Gordon Liddy. The now-71-year-old Hauser's output has slowed in recent years (he had guest spots on episodes of CASTLE and RIZZOLI & ISLES in 2016), but his actor son Cole Hauser seems poised to follow in his dad's footsteps in B-movies and on TV, most recently as Kevin Costner's right-hand man in the Paramount Network series YELLOWSTONE). But Wings Hauser was definitely having a moment in the early '80s thanks to his unforgettable performance in VICE SQUAD, and it was enough to make him a reliable presence as plays-by-his-own-rules cops and vicious killers for years to come.
|Wings Hauser IS Stoney Cooper!|
ANGEL and its 1985 sequel AVENGING ANGEL. Despite adhering to every genre trope imaginable, DEADLY FORCE failed to establish Wings Hauser as a mainstream, multiplex action star, though he was never out of work thanks to the forthcoming straight-to-video explosion that would keep him busy through the 1990s. Looking at it now, DEADLY FORCE prefigures LETHAL WEAPON in a number of ways, starting with both films opening with a beautiful young woman taking an unwilling dive off of a high balcony. But with his disdain for department policy, his goofy, smart-ass eccentricities (he breaks into Maynard's house, makes small-talk with his senile mother, and eats popcorn and watches porn with Maynard's girlfriend before sarcastically tucking an irate Maynard into bed), his penchant for taking insane risks (there's some impressive stunt work here, with one wild car chase where Hauser and Snyder are, in most shots, right there in the vehicles), and the manic, hair-trigger intensity brought to the table by Hauser, Stoney Cooper is an obvious precursor to Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs. I somehow missed DEADLY FORCE back in the day, but I thoroughly enjoyed discovering it now, so even though the Blu-ray has no extras, props to Shout! Factory for making this forgotten, Cannon-esque gem available once again. It's just a shame that we were deprived of further Stoney Cooper adventures, a gift that would've never stopped giving.
DEADLY FORCE belatedly opening in Toledo, OH on 1/27/1984,
over six months after it began its theatrical rollout.