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Review: 'Stranglehold' Game Never Lets Up

"Stranglehold" revives Inspector Tequila's starring role in John Woo's 1992 action flick "Hard-Boiled," this time as a video game.

Unlike most film-to-game conversions, "John Woo Presents Stranglehold" (Rated M, $59.99) didn't leave me feeling like I had just bought a bootleg DVD in some darkened alley.

This is one crazed thrill ride that delivers on the movie's premise, and then some other stuff happens. Soon enough, you'll stop caring.

After about five minutes I had forgotten why I was shooting all these gangsters and instead focused on how creatively I could do it.

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Tequila's investigative powers start and end with his two pistols, and later, a cache of machine guns, grenades, shotguns and other weaponry.

This arsenal and Tequila's violent, single-minded pursuit of "justice" is the theme for a video game that's more like a movie set where you star as the stuntman.

It's one long action sequence after another as you engage in fights across an array of settings, including rickety seaside heroin dens to destructible museum exhibits featuring dinosaur skeletons.

"Stranglehold" unloads at you with unending waves of gun-toting villains.

Like movie sets filled with highly explosive props for you to explore, the levels encourage players to slide down banisters, for example, while mowing down enemies — likewise, blowing up the obligatory propane tanks, which always seem to be conveniently located near your foes.

There are other examples where a good shot to a supportive wood brace will send an avalanche of boulders crushing upon a pack of bad guys.

One feature of "Stranglehold" is a slowdown effect similar to the "bullet time" of the Matrix movies. Only here it's called "Tequila Time," and it's very useful when dodging bullets or feeling outnumbered.

To truly succeed, you'll need to start thinking like John Woo, who directed the film and helped create this game.

Look at it this way: don't just aim for the sniper perched on a wooden ledge on the hillside. Go for the barrel of explosives behind the sniper instead. Kaboom. Get the idea?

The trick is doing all of this in one extended acrobatic dance of destruction so you can rack up combo and style points.

Perform enough cool moves and you'll unlock super powers like "precision aim," where Tequila can accurately shoot enemies from long range. Then there's "spin attack," a good choice if you're feeling pinned and need to unleash some massive destruction.

If you don't like the way you've played a particular level, it's easy to go back for a second or third take. I've been working on smoothing out my action scenes, taking advantage of every destructible element I can blow up or slide down.

If you like your action in large doses, but not much else, "Stranglehold" is an explosive new option for the Xbox 360 (and soon, Windows PCs and the PlayStation 3).

Three stars out of four.