In the near future, by the year 1991, crime has become so rampant in the United States that all local police forces have been disbanded and replaced by private companies. These companies are collectively known as C.O.P.S., or Civilian Operated Police Incorporated. Wait, that’s not right. But that’s what the opening voiceover calls them. By the second scene in Future Force, from writer/director and b-movie auteur extraordinaire David A. Prior, viewers know that the last word in the COPS acronym is Systems, not Incorporated. We love a lack of attention to details like that here at Shitty Movie Sundays.
These new COPS aren’t like the old cops. For one thing, the American system of justice has been turned on its head. The accused are now presumed guilty, and are convicted before they are ever arrested, often without knowledge of their offenses.
COPS have peculiar uniforms, as well. Gone are the crisp khakis or dark blues of police. In are wild haircuts, tattoos, dog tags, denim, and kuttes bedecked with doodads and patches of mysterious meaning. It looks as if these COPS are descended aesthetically and ideologically from the Hells Angels that provided security at Altamont.
The toughest of them all is Tucker (David Carradine), a holdover from the old LAPD who is quick to pull the trigger, but who also adheres to the strict letter of the law, insofar as it exists in this dystopian future.
One day, a newly-hired local newscaster, Marion (Anna Rapagna), threatens to break a story about corruption in the highest levels of COPS, led by the ruthless Adams (William Zipp), and aided by legendary drive-in bad guy Robert Tessier as the thuggish Becker. They put her name at the top of the COPS bounty list, charged with and convicted of treason. The sentence, of course, is death. Because of a little inside baseball, Tucker gets notice of the bounty before everyone else. His strictness means he is unwilling to just kill a target who gave herself up willingly, while every other COP in the city wants to blast her for the quick bounty.
The remainder of the film is a cat and mouse game between Tucker and the other COPS, with occasional interference from Becker and Adams. Tucker fights off the other COPS in classic old west form, with a pair of badass revolvers. There are car chases, very slow fistfights, and, best of all, a techno glove that shoots lasers. That last one is enough of a deus ex machina that Prior uses it sparingly, but it’s always lurking, waiting in the back of Tucker’s Jeep.
Everything about this movie is low rent and glorious. The costumes look as if they cost about five and a half bucks to put together, and Tucker’s glove is only a touch more sophisticated than what Nintendo was selling at the time. Bullets fly in every action scene, but much of the time Carradine couldn’t be bothered to aim his pistols.
My favorite part of this flick, though, is the setting. Here we are in the future, somewhat, and Prior made no effort to hide contemporary Los Angeles. Life goes on as normal in the background, with traffic, trucks making deliveries, people walking the streets, etc. It breaks suspension of disbelief, but in a funny way.
Some more glorious shittiness. The story uses the old damsel-in-distress trope. Viewers know where this is going. After one particularly tense escape, Tucker and Marion won’t be able to keep their hands off of each other. Marion wakes up in the morning with the other side of the bed empty, as expected. But, that’s all we see. There was never an onscreen kiss, much less a sex scene. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an action flick that just glosses over the hero/damsel entanglement like that before. It’s weird, even if it does mean viewers don’t have to see a David Carradine sex scene.
Then there is Prior’s writing. Here’s a sample of Marion teasing the big story she’s going to break about Adams:
“Are we safer now? Or have we brought a reign of violence upon ourselves that may destruct[sic] our society and indeed everything we stand for in our democracy? The real question is, can we continue to condone the rising tide of unnecessary violence brought to us by our merely supposed protectors? This secretly made surveillance tape...might just bring some of this corruption to its knees.”
That’s fantastic. It’s undisciplined, unedited, and barely sensical. And that’s the film in a nutshell. Future Force is a silly movie, and it is totally endearing. A little more money in the budget would have been nice, because I’m sure Prior would have used it for more explosions and laser effects. As it is, Future Force is a fine addition to the Watchability Index. It takes over the #121 spot from Final Score.