Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The First Power
Jarv’s Rating: 2 Changs. Not the greatest effort ever, but any film where Lou Diamond Phillips gets clobbered in the happy sack by both a bag lady and a nun on different occasions is clearly worth a bit of my time.
Sometimes a concept is just a bad one. I can see the thinking about this, it really does fit right into its time- the late 80’s/ early 90’s- when a whole raft of serial-killer-returns from the dead films were released. This is one of them, a lesser one, but it has to be said that it is quite an enjoyable entry. Nevertheless, a bad idea is a bad idea, and The First Power has, I think, about 6 bad ideas.
Lou Diamond Phillips plays Russ Logan, a hard-bitten LA Cop. Despite all evidence that may suggest he’s the most useless policeman in the history of Cinema, and I mean worse than Frank Drebbin, he is apparently a crack investigator who has been single-handedly responsible for the arrest/ death of 3 serial killers in 5 years. Unfortunately for Lou, there’s a real bastard of a serial killer on the loose and he’s stumped. However, fortune is a fickle mistress and he receives an anonymous call telling him precisely where he can catch the Pentagram Killer, all he’s got to do is not kill the guy. Lou, being a dickhead, knows better, so off Patrick Channing goes to the Gas Chamber. Unfortunately this releases Channing to possess and murder a whole slew of people, and torment Logan for shits and giggles. Eventually he possesses a bag lady, turns up at Logan’s apartment, sticks the head on him before clobbering him in the joy department. Happy coincidence has it that there is a psychic nun armed with the magic knife that can kill him, and so she (for no good reason) accompanies him to the showdown. Whereupon Channing possesses her, and then proceeds to wallop Logan in the family jewels. Again. Logan eventually overcomes the nefarious occult bastard, before being gunned down by the cops, who inexplicably haven’t taken the whole “Stabs Nun” thing very well.
The acting in First Power ranges from the dreadful to the absolutely awesome. Lou is passable as Logan, but he isn’t helped by the fact that the character is a complete dickhead. Honestly, Logan is probably the worst cop ever seen on screen- he screams at witnesses, breaks into apartments pointlessly, holds a lit zippo in a comatose suspects face, can’t see the obvious and seems to be as bright as the bottom of a rabbit warren. He’s a massive tit. At some point the writers thought “Shit, better give him some depth” so there’s a ridiculous tangent, where he tries to show his, for wont of a better word, range by gurning frantically at the camera in an utterly doomed attempt to portray loss of faith. Having said that, he does portray “been booted in the nuts” well, which is just as well, really. Tracy Griffith is utter crap as “professional psychic” and Elizabeth Arlen doesn’t exactly set the world on fire as Sister Marguerite. However, Jeff Kobler brings an absolutely terrifying psycho to the screen- one of the 2 Changs is purely for his performance. Channing is depraved, insane, sadistic, and has a great line in tormenting Logan. It’s a first-rate performance and deserves better than this film.
The First Power is also badly written. To begin with, the plot just doesn’t make sense. The First Power in question is reincarnation and can apparently be bestowed by either God or Satan (we discover this from a really, really heavy exposition scene towards the end that only exists because someone realised that the film didn’t make any sense at all). This is fine, except Channing isn’t reincarnating, and also seems to have a shit load of other powers such as teleportation, flying and being able to clobber Lou in the nut sack with unerring accuracy The magic knife in question (apparently an ancient Catholic “idol”) looks straight from a Korean flea market, the rubbish on Channing’s background is completely nonsensical, and Tess’ psychic powers exist solely to move the plot forward when they have painted themselves into a corner. Furthermore, the dialogue is laughably inept, but actually kind of enjoyable with Logan and Channing sharing some hilarious exchanges that I can’t believe that nobody spotted.
Nevertheless, this is a ridiculously entertaining film. It’s fundamentally terrible by pretty much any critical standard that could possibly be used- including that a film ostensibly set in LA clearly has Chicago landmarks such as the Sears Tower visible, but that doesn’t matter. The murders are downright hilarious (one cop is stomped to death by a horse), and there’s a flying bag lady. A flying bag lady, for fuck’s sake! Hilarious stuff. Furthermore, watching Logan get walloped by women is funny, and watching his attempt at intimidating a nun is beyond ridiculous. I have to say that despite the film’s best efforts, I did find myself enjoying it. It’s fun in a completely unintentionally goofy way, and it was an unexpected pleasure.
Overall, would I recommend it? Well, it’s worth seeing for Kobler’s performance, and it’s certainly one of Lou Diamond Phillips’ better films. It did make me laugh out loud on more than one occasion (notably flying bag lady), and it veers so often into the ridiculous that it’s never boring. It’s frequently stupid, but never boring. At the end of the day, this is just one of a number of films like this released at the same time, but I think it’s the only one that I would even consider coming back to.
Not to mention that a psychic nun belts Lou Diamond Phillips in the meat and two veg, something that is amusing by definition.
Until next time,