Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The First Power

   The First Power is a perfectly serviceable little thriller starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Tracy Griffith and genre mainstay Jeff Kober. Seeing as how you'll probably only ever stumble across this flick in a DVD bargain bin, you'll certainly get your money's worth if you buy it. Which isn't a bad thing. It's a by-the-numbers 90's thriller that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a mystery of any sort- it's not. It's one of those cop thrillers with an occult twist. Obviously there's some psychic, or a priest, or a nun, or just some kook who knows that the killer has powers, and as the audience- we know the same thing, so the plot of the movie is an exercise in waiting for the tough-as-nails cop to accept this stuff so he can get on with killing the bad guy.

   In this movie it is in fact a psychic lady who knows stuff about the killer, and Lou Diamond Phillips plays the cop who's having a hard time wrapping his head around it. See, he just doesn't buy into all that hocus pocus crap. He doesn't believe in anything but his gun. Does any of this sound familiar? Yeah it's the same kind of thing we see in every movie even vaguely like this. Just once I'd like to see the cliches flipped. Have a cop who's totally into all that 'hocus pocus crap' and a psychic who doesn't believe in her own abilities. Why not? Anyways, The First Power rarely rises above genre conventions. This cop just might be going nuts, and God help us if he's not! Sure, it's all very cliche but it's made competently, very much so.

   The movie even had some really neat scenes. For example, in one chase scene inside a hotel, the killer actually rips a ceiling fan down and uses it as a weapon. I can't accurately describe this scene well enough, but it was pretty awesome. It's in the trailer if you wanna see it, though I suggest just seeing the movie. Because, lets face it- everyone is going to watch at least 20 more cliche cop/occult thrillers in their lifetime and you could do a lot worse than making The First Power one of them. It's very atmospheric and fast paced. The bad guy is interesting, even if he's nothing wholly original. The action scenes are well put together and there's a lot of wild stuff going on.

   Like the aforementioned ceiling fan scene, there's plenty more crazy stunts to see in here. People leaping off of ten story buildings, breaking through walls, and the like. There's also a wealth of creepy and bloody imagery. While the cop stuff might be borderline corny, the horror elements never are. It's very dark and unsettling. There's a scene where the cops find one of their own, murdered, and hung up under a bridge- some 100 or so feet in the air. "How did they get him up there?" I dunno, but it's effective imagery. The movie could've used a lot more of this stuff, not that it has a deficit or anything but whenever it resorts to standard shootouts and foot chases, it simply seems like they have a 'shots fired' quota to fill.

   I thought the actors did their best with the material they had, which was hardly ever worse than standard. Phillips was fun to watch, and Griffith was cute- both in personality and otherwise, but it's Jeff Kober who steals the show. You know this is a role that Kober could probably play in his sleep, but he's so clearly enjoying the hell out of it. It's an over-the-top part with a license to chew as much scenery as you want. Kober goes for broke, and manages to be a real treat to watch. His 'Pentagram Killer' character won't make any top ten movie villains lists, but he's still a lot of fun. In many ways that is also true of the movie. It's not a waste of time, but obviously you know there's better stuff you could be watching.

   It's easy for me to recommend to fans of the genre and anyone looking for some cheap but effectively intense. The lurid thrills come fast and don't let up. Occult nonsense, serial killings, shootouts, and plenty of bloody visuals. I liked the look of the movie and the locations they shot it at. Lots of grimy industrial settings and such. The perfect backdrop for a movie like this. Overall there's not a whole lot to set this aside from typical genre fare, except for a handful of really creative and unexpected scenes. They might not make this a great movie, but they certainly make it enjoyable which is high praise for bargain pin entertainment. If you're an undemanding audience and you happen across this movie, go for it.

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