A Movie A Day #356: The Delta Force (1986, directed by Menahem Golan)


Last year, at this time, I set a goal for myself.

I decided that, in 2017, I would review a movie a day and I nearly succeeded. I didn’t review a movie on the day Chris Cornell died.  I missed a few days in March due to a sinus infection.  Including the review that I’m posting below, I reviewed 356 movies in 2017.  According to the year-end stats, my most popular reviews were for Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Slaughter, Body Chemistry 3, Body Chemistry 4, and Beatlemania.

Since tomorrow will be the start of a new year, this is going to be the end of my A Movie A Day experiment.  In 2018, I’ll still be watching movies and posting reviews on this site but this is my final daily review.  For my final Movie A Day, I picked the greatest movie of all time, The Delta Force!

Produced by Cannon Films, The Delta Force starts in 1980, with a helicopter exploding in the desert.  America’s elite special missions force has been sent to Iran to rescue the men and women being held hostage in the embassy.  The mission is a disaster with the members of Delta Force barely escaping with their lives.  Captain Chuck Norris tells his commanding officer, Col. Lee Marvin, that he’s finished with letting cowardly politicians control their missions.  Chuck heads to Montana while Lee spends the next few years hitting on the bartender at his local watering hole.

In 1985, terrorists led by Robert Forster hijack an airplane and divert it to Beirut.  Among those being held hostage: Martin Balsam, Shelley Winters, Lainie Kazan, Susan Strasberg, Kim Delaney, and Bo Svenson.  The great George Kennedy plays a priest named O’Malley who, when the Jewish passengers are moved to a separate location, declares himself to be Jewish and demands to be taken too.  Jerry Lazarus is a hostage who spends the movie holding a Cabbage Patch doll that his daughter gave him for luck.  Former rat packer Joey Bishop plays a passenger who says, “Beirut was beautiful then.  Beautiful.”  Fassbinder favorite Hanna Schygulla is the stewardess who refuses to help the terrorists because, “I am German!”

In America, General Robert Vaughn activates The Delta Force to rescue the hostages and take out the terrorists.  As Lee Marvin prepares everyone (including Cannon favorite, Steve James and, in a nonspeaking role, Liam Neeson) to leave, the big question is whether Chuck Norris will come out of retirement for the mission.  Of course, he does.  Even better, he brings his motorcycle with him.

Anyone who has ever seen The Delta Force remembers Chuck’s motorcycle.  Not only did it look incredibly cool but it was also mounted with machine guns and it could fire missiles at cowardly terrorists.  It didn’t matter whether you agreed with the film’s politics were or whether you even liked the movie, everyone who watched The Delta Force wanted Chuck’s motorcycle.  As the old saying goes, “You may be cool but you’ll never be Chuck Norris firing a missile from a motorcycle cool.”

The Delta Force is really three different films.  One film, shot in the style of a disaster film, is about the hostages on the plane and their evil captors.  The second film is Lee Marvin (in his final movie role) preparing his men to storm the airplane.  The third movie is Chuck Norris chasing Robert Forster on his motorcycle.  Put those three movies together and you have the ultimate Cannon movie.  The Delta Force was even directed by Cannon’s head honcho, Menahem Golan.  (Years earlier, Golan also directed Operation Thunderbolt, an Israeli film about the raid on Entebbe, which features more than a few similarities to The Delta Force.  Golan received his first and only Oscar nomination when Operation Thunderbolt was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.)

The Delta Force is also the ultimate 80s movie.  It opens with the Carter administration fucking everything up and it ends with the Reagan administration giving Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris the greenlight to blow up some terrorists.  There is not much nuance to be found in The Delta Force but it still feels good to watch Chuck beat the bad guys.  Top that off with a shameless score from Alan Silvestri and you have one of the greatest action movies of all time.

At the end of The Delta Force, as cans of Budweiser are being passed out to rescued hostages, an extra is clearly heard to shout, “Beer!  America!”  Then everyone sings America The Beautiful.

That says it all.

A Movie A Day #313: Lone Wolf McQuade (1983, directed by Steve Carver)


Chuck Norris is J.J. McQuade, Texas Ranger!

J.J. McQuade is a former Marine who keeps the peace in El Paso through a combination of karate and machine guns.  McQuade lives in a house in the desert, with only a wolf and refrigerator full of beer to provide companionship.  He prefers to work alone, even though his captain (R.G. Armstrong) insists that McQuade partner up with a rookie named Kayo Ramos (Robert Beltran).  Ramos is eager to prove himself but Lone Wolf McQuade has to work alone.  Otherwise, his nickname would not make any sense.

Things change when McQuade’s teenage daughter (Dana Kimmel) is put in the hospital by an arrogant and sleazy arms dealer named Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine).  McQuade is out for both justice and revenge and Ramos’s knowledge of how to turn on a computer proves to be helpful.  Also teaming up with McQuade: an FBI agent (Leon Isaac Kennedy), a retired Ranger named Dakota (L.Q. Jones), and Rawley’s former lover (Barbara Carrera), who now happens to be McQuade’s current lover.

The predictable storyline is not what makes Lone Wolf McQuade a classic. Instead, it’s that this movie features both Chuck Norris and David Carradine at the height of their abilities.    The whole film is directed like a grand western, with Norris and Carradine taking the roles that would usually go to Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef.  The plot may be full of holes but when these two face off, none of that matters.  Neither Carradine nor Norris used stunt doubles for their fight scenes and it makes all the difference.

This was one of the first movies to feature Chuck Norris with the beard that’s become his trademark.  Wisely, Chuck doesn’t say much in the movie and leaves most of the heavy-duty acting to his co-stars.  (Though he may be an icon of cool, Chuck has never been anyone’s idea of a great actor.)  Carradine’s performance as Rawley feels like an early version of his best known role, Bill in Kill Bill.  L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong both bring their own history as members of the Sam Peckinpah stock company to the film while Barbara Carrera livens up her part with a sultry spark.  Keep an eye out for both William Sanderson and Sharon Farrell in small roles.  Speaking of small roles, Daniel Frishman almost steals the entire damn movie as a rival arms dealer.

Though it wasn’t produced by Cannon, Lone Wolf McQuade is an essential for fans of Chuck Norris.

A Movie A Day #304: Code of Silence (1985, directed by Andrew Davis)


It’s life and death in the Windy City.  It’s got Chuck Norris, Henry Silva, Dens Farina, and a robot, too.  It’s Code of Silence.

Chuck plays Eddie Cusack, a tough Chicago policeman who is abandoned by his fellow officers when he refuses to cover for an alcoholic cop who accidentally gunned down a Hispanic teenager and then tried to place a gun on the body.  This the worst time for Cusack to have no backup because a full-scale gang war has just broken out between the Mafia and the Comachos, a Mexican drug gang led by Luis Comacho (Henry Silva).  When a cowardly mobster goes into hiding, Luis targets his daughter, Diana (Molly Hagan).  Determined to end the drug war and protect Diana, Eddie discovers that he may not be able to rely on his brothers in blue but he can always borrow a crime-fighting robot named PROWLER.

Despite the presence of a crime-fighting robot, Code of Silence is a tough, gritty, and realistic crime story.  Though Chuck only gets to show off his martial arts skills in two scenes (and one of those scenes is just Eddie working out in the gym), Code of Silence is still Norris’s best film and his best performance.  The film draws some interesting comparisons between the police’s code of silence and the Mafia’s omerta and director Andrew Davis shows the same flair for action that he showed in The Fugitive and Above the LawCode of Silence‘s highlight is a fight between Chuck and an assassin that takes place on top of a moving train.  Norris did his own stunts so that really is him trying not to fall off that train.

Davis surrounds Norris with familiar Chicago character actors, all of whom contribute to Code of Silence‘s authenticity and make even the smallest roles memorable.  (Keep an eye out for the great John Mahoney, playing the salesman who first introduces the PROWLER.)  Norris’s partner is played by Dennis Farina, who actually was a Chicago cop at the time of filming.  After Code of Silence, Farina quit the force to pursue acting full time and had a busy career as a character actor, playing cops and mobsters in everything from Manhunter to Get Shorty.  As always, Henry Silva is a great villain but the movie is stolen by Molly Hagan, who is feisty and sympathetic as Diana.  To the film’s credit, it doesn’t try to force Eddie and Diana into any sort of contrived romance.

Unfortunately, none of Chuck Norris’s other films never came close to matching the quality of this one.  Code of Silence is a hint of what could have been.

A Movie A Day #161: The Way of the Dragon (1972, directed by Bruce Lee)


Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris in a battle to the death!

That alone makes The Way of The Dragon worth seeing.  This was Bruce Lee’s only completed directorial effort and it was the last of his films to be released during his lifetime.  (Lee’s best known film, Enter the Dragon, was released 6 days after Lee’s death.  When Lee died, he was directing Game of Death.)  In Way of the Dragon, Lee plays Tang Lung, a martial artist who travels from Hong Kong to Rome to help protect the owners of a restaurant from the Mafia.  At first, everyone dismisses Tang Lung as being an unsophisticated bumpkin and he does little to convince them otherwise.  But when the Mafia tries to intimidate him, Tang reveals how dangerous it is to underestimate him.

The only version of Way of the Dragon that I have seen is the badly dubbed version that was released in the United States so it’s hard for me to judge either the script or the acting, through Bruce Lee was a natural-born movie star and, even when dubbed, as charismatic as ever.  During the first half of the film, there is so much humor that it almost seems like a comedy but, unless you find Bruce Lee begging someone to tell him where the bathroom is, a lot of that humor falls flat.  Far more interesting is the scene where Tang and a waiter debate the merits of Japanese vs Chinese martial arts.  This scene reveals that Lee was just as serious about the philosophy behind the martial arts as he was about the actual fighting.

Most people who watch The Way of the Dragon will do so for the fighting and the film does not disappoint.  The Way of the Dragon features some of the best martial arts action ever captured on film.  The Mafia hires three martial artists to take on Tang, which means that, along with the usual collection of Mafia thugs, Bruce Lee also fights Bob Wall, Hwang In-shik, and Chuck Norris.

Bruce Lee’s final battle with Chuck Norris is The Way of the Dragon’s most famous scene and perhaps one of the greatest scenes in the history of world cinema.  Both Norris and Lee are in top physical form and the two real-life friends held nothing back.  The fight was filmed in the Roman Colosseum, confirming that Norris and Lee are meant to be modern-day gladiators, battling to the death but never viewing each other with anything less than respect.  Neither Norris nor Lee say a word during their climatic face-off.  They let their fists and their feet do the talking.  It’s a brutal battle between not just two men but also two different philosophies of fighting.

The Way of the Dragon was Lee’s biggest hit during his lifetime.  A modest success when first released in the west, it was re-released following Lee’s death and was retitled The Return of the Dragon.  While the American co-production Enter The Dragon is a bigger and slicker production, The Way of the Dragon is the best of Lee’s Hong Kong films and his final battle with Chuck Norris remains the perfect showcase for his skill as a fighter.

A Movie A Day #137: Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988, directed by Aaron Norris)


Chuck Fucking Norris, dude.  Chuck Norris is so cool that continuity bends to his will and thanks him for the opportunity.

Need proof?

Just watch Braddock: Missing in Action III.

The third Missing in Action film starts in 1975, with the fall of Saigon.  The communists are taking over.  The Americans are fleeing Vietnam.  Colonel James Braddock (Chuck FUCKING Norris) is determined to bring his Vietnamese wife to America with him but, when she loses her papers and is not allowed to make her way to the American embassy, Braddock believes that she had been killed. (Keep an eye out for Keith David as the Embassy guard.  Only Chuck Norris could overshadow Keith David in a movie.)  Heartbroken, Braddock returns to the United States.

Every fan of the Missing in Action franchise knows better.  We all know that Chuck was in a POW camp when Saigon fell.  In Missing in Action 2, he and his fellow prisoners did not even know if the war had ended.  Also, Chuck mentioned having a wife waiting for him back in the United States.  What gives?

I can think of only two possible explanations.

Either Chuck Norris and Cannon Films did not care about continuity

or

Chuck Norris is so cool that, in order to prevent his collected coolness from knocking the Earth off of its axis, the U.S. Army split Chuck’s coolness in half by creating a clone.  One clone spent ten years in a POW camp.  The other clone escaped during the Fall of Saigon but had to leave behind his wife.

Thirteen years later and back in the U.S., Chuck is contacted by Reverend Polanski (Yehuda Efroni), who tells him that his wife is still alive in Vietnam and that he has a 12 year-old son.  Chuck’s boss at the CIA tells him that, under no circumstances, is Chuck to go to Vietnam.

Anyone who thinks they can tell Chuck Norris what do is a fool.

Chuck goes to Vietnam and is reunited with his wife and son.  Unfortunately, when Chuck tries to get his new family out of the country, they are captured by sadistic General Quoc (Aki Aleong).  Again, Braddock must escape from a Vietnamese prison camp.

Braddock: Missing in Action III was co-written by Chuck Norris and it was directed by his brother, Aaron.  It’s a Norris production all the way, which means a lot of heroic shots of Chuck and a lot of bad guys wondering why Chuck is so much better than them.

Braddock was released four years after the first Missing in Action but, more importantly, it was released two years after Oliver Stone’s Platoon changed the way that movies dealt with the war in Vietnam.  By the time that Braddock came out, films in which lone American refought and single-handedly won the war were no longer in fashion.  Braddock was a flop at the box office and it ended the franchise.  However, continuity errors aside, Braddock is actually the best of the Missing in Action films.  It features Chuck’s best performance in the series and Chuck searching for his wife and child gives Braddock more emotional weight than the first two Missing in Action films. Maybe Chuck should have co-written and selected the director for all of the films he made for Cannon.

Chuck Norris, dude.

Chuck Fucking Norris.

A Movie A Day #136: Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985, directed by Lance Hool)


Goddamn, dude.  Chuck Fucking Norris.  Even when the movie is terrible, Chuck is cool.

That is especially relevant when it comes to a movie like Missing In Action 2: The Beginning.  Produced by Cannon Films and shot back-to-back with the first Missing in Action, The Beginning was supposed to come out first.  However, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took a look at the two movies and realized that The Beginning would work better as the 2nd film in the series.  They were right though some post-production tinkering did lead to some serious errors in continuity.

(Not that anyone watching a Golan/Globus production would be worrying about continuity.)

Did you ever wonder how James Braddock (Chuck Norris) became a POW in the first place?  No?  Missing In Action 2 is going to show you how it happened anyway.  It turns out that he and his men were captured, in 1972, by the Viet Cong when their helicopter crashed into a lake.  At the start of the movie, Chuck only has a mustache.  If Chuck had been fully bearded, there is no way the VC could have captured him.  After Chuck and his men have spent ten years in a jungle prison, where they are forced to pick poppies for a French heroin drug lord, Chuck has grown a full beard and is finally strong enough to escape from the prison, rescue his men, and defeat the sadistic camp commandant (Soon-Tek Oh) in hand-to-hand combat.  None of it is surprising but there’s enough weird stuff, like the prostitutes that the French drug dealer flies into the camp and the Australian journalist who shows up out of nowhere and is executed ten minutes later, to keep it interesting.  Chuck is as stiff as always but he’s good in the action scenes and gets to show off some sweet karate moves towards the end of the movie.  Supposedly, Chuck viewed the Missing in Action films as a tribute to his brother, Wieland, who was killed in Vietnam.

The continuity error has to do with the amount of time that Braddock and his men spend in the camp.  After Chuck is captured in 1972, the film inserts some footage of Ronald Reagan giving a speech about the men who never returned from Vietnam.  A narrator says that the Americans are still wondering what happened to the thousands of soldiers who were reported as being MIA in Vietnam.  The implication is that Chuck and company spent ten years in the POW Camp, which means that they escaped in 1982.  Since it is said, in Missing in Action, that it has been ten years since Chuck escaped, that means that Missing in Action actually took place in 1992.  But if Chuck and the boys escaped and returned to America in 1982 then why, in 1992, was everyone so convinced that all the POWs were released immediately after the Vietnam War?

Fortunately, Chuck Norris is so cool that it doesn’t matter what year it is.

Chuck Norris, man.

Chuck Fucking Norris.

A Movie A Day #135: Missing in Action (1984, directed by Joseph Zito)


Chuck Fucking Norris, man.  Is there anything this man can not do?

In Missing in Action, he plays Colonel James Braddock, an army intelligence officer.  For a career military man, his long hair and his beard are definitely against regulations but who is going to tell Chuck Norris to get a haircut?  Ten years ago, Braddock escaped from a POW camp in North Vietnam.  Haunted by nightmares and still convinced that there are American POWs in Vietnam, Braddock is inspired by an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (I am not joking!) to accompany a U.S. Senator on a fact-finding trip to Ho Chi Minh City.  It’s there that Braddock uncovers evidence that American soldiers are being held prisoner by the evil General Trau (James Hong).  With the government refusing to help him, Braddock is forced to go to Thailand, where he hooks up with an old friend, a former soldier turned black marketeer named Tuck (M.  Emmett Walsh).  Braddock and Tuck head into the jungle, to both rescue the POWs and to remind the world that, no matter what a bunch of pointy-headed lefties might say, Americans never lose a war!

A blatant rip-off of the Rambo films, Missing in Action was one of Cannon Films’ most financially successful movies.  Seen today, Missing in Action is borderline xenophobic and it takes forever for the action to really get started.  I was surprised by the number of scenes that were devoted to Braddock looking for evidence that the POWs were still in Vietnam, as if there was ever any real suspense about what Braddock would find.  (No POWs = no movie.)

On the positive side, once it finally starts, the action is exciting.  Joseph Zito was a veteran genre director and he know how to handle a battle scene.  Unfortunately, in this one, Chuck does most of his fighting with a machine gun instead of his hands.  This is also one of the first movies where Chuck Norris has the full beard going.  The beard serves to distract from what a stiff actor Chuck Norris usually was and it does its job in Missing in Action.  When it comes to picking a Chuck Norris film to watch, it’s a good idea to see how much facial hair will be featured.  If Chuck has a beard, definitely watch.  If Chuck only has a mustache, proceed with caution but, if there’s nothing else to watch, give the movie a chance.  If Chuck is clean-shaven and Bruce Lee is nowhere to be seen, throw the movie back and never speak of it again.

Missing in Action was shot back-to-back with what eventually became known as Missing in Action 2: The Beginning.  Originally, The Beginning was meant to be released first and Missing in Action was intended to be a sequel.  However, once the execs at Cannon saw the footage, they deemed The Beginning to be unreleasable and instead sent Missing in Action out to theaters.  (A movie so bad that even Cannon was hesitant to release it?  It boggles the mind.)  Missing in Action was such a box office success and The Beginning was subsequently released as a prequel.  However, when it comes to Norris/Cannon films, Invasion USA is the one to watch.  That one has a bearded Chuck and Richard Lynch!