Credibility is not "Extreme Justice's" strong point. Hothead police officer Lou Diamond Phillips is recruited for an S.I.S. position by former partner Scott Glenn.

Credibility is not “Extreme Justice’s” strong point. Hothead police officer Lou Diamond Phillips is recruited for an S.I.S. position by former partner Scott Glenn.

Though not exactly a shrinking violet himself, Phillips soon finds himself knee-deep in blood and flying cartilage. The S.I.S. squad has dangerous levels of alcohol and testosterone in their veins — a lethal combination — hunting down your standard scum-of-the-earth film criminals.

They catch them in the act and dispatch them to the great beyond, often offing innocent bystanders in the process.

Since S.I.S. doesn’t officially exist, their activities are easy to hush up and squadron commander (Ed Lauter) is punch-drunk with empathy for the vigilantes.

Phillips’ consciousness gets raised but fast and he proceeds on a collision course with Glenn.

Compounding the fracture is Phillips’ girlfriend, Chelsea Field, who happens to be a tenacious crime reporter, who plies her trade only in the clingiest and most revealing outfits. The story dovetails into an old-fashioned fisticuffs finale.

Writers Frank Sacks and Robert Boris lay in a goodly amount of interesting procedural information about the S.I.S. But the characters’ motivations are shallow and obvious. Fortunately, Lester keeps things moving with gut-level speed.

Actors don’t have many notes to play but Phillips manages to be in tune with his role as the film’s moral center, getting better as the film progresses.

Glenn gets to leer a great deal but rides the razor-thin line between believable and ludicrous. Field is easy on the eyes — there are no unattractive women in this film — but is more believable as an investigative reporter for the Victoria’s Secret catalog than for an L.A. Times-like daily.

Technical credits for what is obviously a low-budget effort are good to excellent, particularly Mark Irwin’s tactile photography.

Extreme Justice

Sat. (26), 8-10:31 p.m., HBO

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Trimark. Producer, Frank Sacks; executive producer, Mark Amin; supervising exec producer, Wolf Schmidt; director, Mark Lester; script, Sacks, Robert Boris.

Crew

Camera, Mark Irwin; editor, Donn Aron; production design, Richard L. Johnson; sound, Tricor Entertainment Inc. and Matrix Sound Studio; music, David Michael Frank.

Cast

Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Scott Glenn, Chelsea Field, Ed Lauter, Yaphet Kotto, Andrew Divoff, Richard Grove, William Lucking, L. Scott Caldwell, Larry Holt, Daniel Quinn, Tom Rosales, Ed Frias, Jay Arlen Jones, G. Adam Gifford, Jophery Brown Extreme Justice" is an exploitative treatment of a potentially fascinating film subject, the Los Angeles Police Dept.'s mysterious Special Investigation Section. The covert sting operation has been criticized as being nothing more than a death squad. But the Mark Lester film fails to plumb the moral complexities inherent in the premise, which cry out for a multilayered "Serpico" or "Prince of the City" treatment. Yet the film, originally targeted for theatrical release but debuting on cable is effective on a certain blood-lust level.
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