10 May 2015 | The_Phantom_Projectionist
"I didn't know we had pythons in Johnson County"
ONE MAN ARMY is the second of three collaborations between B-movie guru Cirio Santiago and kickboxer-turned-actor Jerry Trimble, as well as a low-budget made-in-the-Philippines derivative of WALKING TALL. It sits pretty much in the middle of the work Santiago's done, as well as Trimble's as a solo star, but unless you're a fan of either, it's nothing special. Questionable production methods counter the average-to-good fight scenes, leveling out this one's rating to an unenthusiastic three stars. Newcomers to Santiago's fare might as well start here, but Trimble devotees have the option to acquaint themselves with stronger work before giving this one a shot.
The story: Upon the death of his father, tae kwon do instructor Jerry Pelt (Trimble) returns to his rural hometown to find it transformed into a hotbed of underground activity, oppression, and blatant corruption. At the urging of his old flame (Melissa Moore), he takes it upon himself to clean up the town by running for sheriff, therein putting both his friends and his himself at risk.
Let's get the important stuff out of the way: Jerry's martial arts moves are excellent but the fight scenes themselves are a little weak. I can say with certainty that Trimble is one of the very best kickers in the film world and the fact that he does most of his own stunts does not go unappreciated. However, the coolness of his performances is stifled by having almost all of the fights filmed in shadowy areas with only a single camera that doesn't always capture the best angle of things. Of the nine fights, the best happens about halfway through the movie when our hero takes on two thugs in a pool room, but even this is nothing breathtaking. Some gunfighting mixes things up a bit, but it's not terribly exciting, either. However, there is the minor bonus of Jerry having a German shepherd as a constant companion, and the dog's always attacking someone. The filmmakers could've done a lot more with this aspect (make it kind of a more violent K-9, perhaps), but it's cool enough as it is for me to appreciate it.
The cast is comprised entirely of B-movie performers - including Dennis Hayden, Rick Dean, and James Paolleli - and you can expect approximate acting, though it's on the more tolerable side of things and for once Jerry Trimble doesn't look confused all the time. There's a bit of exploitation going on, with no less than three scenes featuring naked breasts and another two featuring women being shot. Aesthetically, the movie isn't boring to look at but I always find myself irritated when these Filipino movies fail so poorly at trying to convince you they're taking place in America - it's quite clear where it was actually filmed. More than a few scenes are shot in dark or shadowy environments, which really doesn't help things especially when the characters are similarly dressed in black. The story offers next to no surprises beyond a late one concerning the allegiance of the Dennis Hayden character, so there's hardly any need to watch the non-action portions of the movie.
It's clear that the performers had fun making this movie, and the carefree feeling sorta-kinda rubs off if you're a game viewer, but the movie's just not strong enough to qualify for repeat viewings for most folks. Again, fans of the bigger names involved in this one might want to check it out, but everyone else ought to consider this throwaway material. If you catch it on TV sometime, give it a peek, but don't feel obligated to spend money on it.