Freedom Strike (1998)


USA. 1998.


Director – Jerry P. Jacobs, Screenplay – G.E. Mallow, Producers – Ashok Amritraj & Andrew Stevens, Photography – Ken Blakey, Special Effects Supervisors – Jay Combs & Larry Fioritto, Production Design – Nava. Production Company – Royal Oaks Entertainment/Unapix Entertainment


Michael Dudikoff (Tom Dickson), Felicity Waterman (Maddie Reese), Jay Anthony (Colonel Abdul Rama), Tone Loc (Major Tyler Haynes), Nicholas Coster (Admiral John Torrance), Penny Peyser (Amanda/Linda Crawford), Michael Fairman (General Porter), James Karen (President Mitchell), Ron Harper (Norman Sears), Frank Roman (Casey Billups), John Putch (Stan)


In 2001, the United Nations creates Freedom Strike, a special international strike force to neutralise threats of deadly technological weaponry. Under the command of Tom Dickson, Freedom Strike break into a command centre in Damascus and steal a computer chip being used to black out enemy communications and electronic transmissions. This ends the bitterly fought Arab Wars. The US President comes aboard the US Nimitz to sign a peace treaty. However, assassins sneak aboard the Nimitz disguised as a tv crew and shoot the Syrian President with an explosive bullet. He is unable to be moved lest the bullet explode. The belligerent Colonel Rama then takes control of Syria, claiming that the US is holding their leader captive. However, this is a ruse created by Rama, who was the one who sent the assassins. Rama now takes the opportunity to commandeer a UN base and ready its nuclear weapons to fire.

Andrew Stevens is a former actor – he can be seen in films such as The Fury (1978), The Seduction (1982), Night Eyes (1990) and Red Blooded American Girl (1990). After his acting career began to fade, Stevens turned to producing and occasionally directing. Stevens and Indian-born producer Ashok Amritraj formed the Royal Oaks production company and from the 1990s onwards have made a prolific number of B-budget movies, usually in the action or light erotic vein. Many of Royal Oaks’ films are also centred around the military – Crash Dive (1996), Steel Sharks (1996), Surface to Air (1997), Black Thunder (1998), Counter Measures (1999), Storm Catcher (1999) and Agent Red (2000) – and incorporate footage filmed on board aircraft carriers, submarines and at Air Force bases. On the end credits, for example, Freedom Strike thanks all of the Department of Defense, the US Navy and the Marine Corps for their assistance.

The upshot of Stevens and Amritraj’s military films is that in being combined with the usual he-man muscularity of the low-budget action film, they make for a body of work that all but comes out in favour of red-blooded, flag-waving, cock-stroking US military might. It should be noted that the Freedom Strike force featured here, although it does nominally operate under the aegis of the United Nations, only features a token non-American – Felicity Waterman with a British accent. Indeed, the whole of Freedom Strike seems uncannily predictive of the kind of testostoronal gung ho military thinking that underlay the American intervention in Iraq in 2003 – the idea of the US as world policeman standing up for freedom whether the world wants it or not; the assumed right to proactively intervene in the Middle East to (supposedly) appropriate weapons of mass destruction in the hands of tyrannical regimes; rulers of Arabic nations seen as mad and unstable despots. Subsequent real world events have unfortunately given what might have seemed a harmless action movie fantasy in 1998 a less palatable odour. Freedom Strike would certainly have been an entirely less confident film had it been made a few years after the US occupation of Iraq.

The film itself is a non-starter. One gets the impression that Stevens and Amritraj obtained permission to shoot aboard the real-life aircraft carrier Nimitz – the same one that travelled through time in The Final Countdown (1980) – and of fighter planes in action over the Middle East and then only afterwards sat down to construct a film around this. The drama has an awkward post-construction feel to it – there is much footage of fighters shooting one another up in mid-air over the desert that doesn’t have much to do with anything else. Even the nominal action element is upstaged by the military footage of the Nimitz and aircraft wheeling into action – action star Michael Dudikoff never gets to do much throughout. Rapper Tone Loc is second-billed but barely gets half-a-dozen scenes, although this may well have been due to the fact that Tone Loc has all the expressiveness of the proverbial brick shithouse.

The plot also asks a number of incredible things – that the US President would appear on an aircraft without a Secret Service detail; that foreign journalists could get next to the US President and several other foreign leaders without even a background check, let alone being searched for concealed weapons; even that hundreds of international media outlets are not present at an event as monumental as the signing of a Middle East peace treaty. Nor is it clear throughout the film what the mad Syrian colonel’s scheme is actually meant to be.

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