The Octagon (1980, directed by Eric Karson)


A ninja named Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita) is running a training camp where he shows mercenaries and terrorists how they can use martial arts to assassinate their enemies and disrupt the political system.  Someone has to stop him.

This looks like a job for CHUCK NORRIS!

In this one, Chuck plays Scott James, a retired karate champion who, though a massive series of apparently unrelated coincidences, is drawn into the fight against Seikura’s terrorists.  (Speaking of coincidences, Seikura just happens to be Scott’s half-brother.)  One of the fun things about The Octagon is that there’s no real rhyme-or-reason as to how Scott gets involved.  He just keeps running into people who want him to fight terrorists.  His former mentor (played by Lee Van Cleef) tries to recruit him.  Immediately after turning him down, Scott just happens to run into a woman (Karen Carlson) who is having car trouble and the woman tries to recruit him.  Scott’s old friend, A.J. (Art Hindle) tries to recruit him.  Even a dancer (Kim Lankford) who goes out on a date with Scott is more interested in talking about the terrorists than anything else.  Even when the terrorists decide to go after Scott, it’s mostly just because he keeps talking to their enemies.

Scott does eventually get involved.  He goes undercover, which means that he gives everyone a fake last name while asking them if they know where he can sign up for the terrorist training camp.  (But he doesn’t shave his mustache or anything else so he’s still obviously Chuck Norris.)  Eventually, Aura (Carol Bagdasarian) defects from the terrorists over to Scott’s side and the two of them launch an assault on the terrorist camp.  While this is all going on, Scott has doubts about whether or not he can really defeat his half-brother and we hear them in voice over.  It’s an interesting attempt to show what’s going on in an action hero’s head but, because Chuck was such an inexpressive actor early in his career, the contrast between his worries and his stone face creates a strange effect.

It doesn’t matter, though, that Chuck wasn’t an expressive actor or that the film’s plot is needlessly convoluted.  The fight scenes are frequent and they all rock and that’s what really matters.  Chuck throws a lot of punches and kicks in this film and, as opposed to some of his other early films, the director of The Octagon made sure that we could see every single one of them.  Whether he’s fighting in a small hotel room and fighting off a dozen enemies in the terrorist camp, Chuck’s exciting to watch.  Also exciting to watch is Carol Bagdasarian, who makes her role more than the typical action movie love interest.  At times, she seems like she might even be a deadlier opponent than Chuck himself!

Finally, Lee Van Cleef!  In this one, he drives a truck with a “Have You Hugged Your Gun Today?” bumper sticker.  No film featuring Lee Van Cleef can be that bad.  In fact, most, like The Octagon, are pretty damn entertaining.

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