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BLOODY BAGFUL OF CHUCK NORRIS MOVIES REVIEWED

Chuck's famous windshield kick from Good Guys Wear Black
Here's a score of Chuck Norris movies from the late seventies all through his kicking-ass eighties reign. These summary-size, one or two paragraph-long reviews are a decade in the making as...

Chuck Norris took Karate films to an entertainingly mindless and guttural, testosterone-driven level, and having appeared in RETURN OF THE DRAGON opposite/verses Bruce Lee, who knows where Chuck's career might have gone had the Chinese Kung Fu Master lived past ENTER THE DRAGON, but like comparing Edgar Rice Burrough's more realistic, cerebral and literary Tarzan to the spontaneous and fun theatrical Johnny Weissmuller adaptations, it's not as if Chuck took Lee's place. Instead, there was a phantom zone that desperately needed filling: Norris successfully delivered and, unlike most, maintained his American Brand of Karate to the large and small screen for nearly three decades...

title: BREAKER, BREAKER 
year: 1977 rating: ***

This is Chuck Norris's WHITE LIGHTNING. He's a veteran trucker whose newbie brother's hijacked by a small town cop and sentenced to jail...

Searching, Chuck takes on this small town of "Texasland" ruled by a very strange judge who quotes Shakespeare and overacts to the hilt. So the single-handed, two-fisted Norris beats up rednecks, and that's about the gist: but it can be one helluva gist. The direction is tight and there's even some "trippy" elements involved in the fight scenes, including the final bout with the biggest toughest minion where Chuck's movements is interwoven with a horse running in circles. You have to see it to get it. Along with a groovy 70's van, if Chuck ever had a psychedelic trip, this'd be it.

title: GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK
year: 1978 rating: ***1/2

Begins in the Vietnam War's waning 11th hour. The Black Tigers, sent in to rescue Missing in Action American soldiers (MIA's), are set-up and screwed around, big time. This sequence could have been very suspenseful and poignant if it didn't resemble dark and grainy stock footage...

But when things become more clear visibly, moving into a karate modern time seventies, all is forgiven as, while members of his disbanded unit are picked-off in a body count fashion, you'll realize what COMMANDO borrowed from as director Ted Post, who made a theatrical Vietnam flick the same year but set entirely "over there," this feels out of a Made-for-TV Movie, which is not entirely bad since those vehicles were made solely to entertaining. Despite a clunky handing-off of action, Neo Noir and political intrigue (including our patron saint, Dana Andrews, providing a load of last-minute exposition), and a dash of James Bond espionage, GOOD GUYS is a neat time-filler that includes Anne Archer as a reporter. Like when Charles Bronson initially plays a "bleeding heart liberal" in DEATH WISH, it's interesting as Chuck gives an anti-military-left-wing lecture to a classroom full of adoring students. And who said he can't act?  

title: A FORCE OF ONE
rating: *** year: 1979

Written by SHAFT creator Ernest Tidyman with a last-shot at the groovy 1970's, this really doesn't live up to its title since there's a slew of characters, other than A FORCE OF ONE Chuck Norris, played by dependable actors...

Jennifer O'Neal, Clu Galagher, Ron O'Neal (who'd become a 1980's Norris movie regular), Pepe Serna, James Whitemore Jr. and (the late, because, ironically, of police gunfire outside his motel room) Ray Vitte play cops who are losing their fellow officers to a mysterious killer who uses martial arts. These killings are connected to kids riding skateboards (like the radical screen-capture above) who sell drugs for an unknown dealer. In order to survive, the cops are sent to learn karate from... guess who? As far as acting goes this is a good vehicle for Chuck Norris since he gets to not only play a martial arts instructor/kickboxer, but we get to see him giving lessons, and we get some great kickboxing bouts to boot.

title: THE OCTAGON 
year: 1980 rating: ***

Twice now renting eighties Chuck Norris flicks because of the curiosity factor concerning two dead actors. LONE WOLF MCQUADE because of David Carradine and this one because of Lee Van Cleef...

Cleef isn't in it much but Norris sure fights a lot of really quick Ninjas, and that's all that really matters here. The plot gets a bit convoluted but doesn't slow things down. There are good enough character-actors (other than Cleef) who make up for Norris's ever-wooden acting, and fists abound. The low point is a very cheesy inner-thought dialog that Norris has with himself, sounding like something from a bad science-fiction spoof. Other than that, we have action, we have Norris, and for the most part... it's pretty darn good.

EYE FOR AN EYE
rating: * year: 1981

Steve Carver, who later directed what is still Chuck Norris's best movie, LONE WOLF MCQUADE, is behind arguably his worst: but EYE FOR AN EYE does have a cool title...

Although it could also be named TWO EYES FOR AN EYE since Chuck has to avenge the death of not only his police partner, but that partner's way-too-cute-comparably girlfriend played by DIFF'RENT STROKES pretty teacher Ms. Chung actress Rosalind Chao. And while Chuck's acting or lack-off makes him always need either a tag-along ringer ingenue or sidekick, or both, Mako, the father of victim number two, weights down what's already dead weight. Most action/investigation flicks (combined with a news reporting espionage angle), moving from one location to another, gathering clues with fights along the way, are intriguing. Not this time. 

title: SILENT RAGE 
year: 1982 rating: **

A killer with a bloody axe and two corpses in his wake is first arrested by Texas Sheriff Chuck Norris (after a big fight) and then - after breaking free from his handcuffs - is shot numerous times by police after he tries to escape...

The killer rejuvenates thanks to three doctors who pump him with drugs before his death. Killer-man awakens ala Frankenstein's monster and goes back to slaughtering and it's up to cop Chuck Norris to stop him. The best moments happen between Norris and his fat silly deputy sidekick played by Stephen Furst. A scene involving Norris beating up a bevy of bikers is probably the peak of this standard action flick, which tries mixing "Friday The 13th" style horror but without much of a pulse... at least not a steady one.

title: FORCED VENGEANCE year: 1982
cast: Chuck Norris, Mary-Louise Weller rating: ***

Next up, after Stephen "Founder" Furst as the token sidekick, another ANIMAL HOUSE alumni, Mary-Louise Weller, much prettier, is the ingenue in what's a good and slick Asian-based Chuck Norris outing where he plays something other than a cop or soldier, but more of a seedy character, at least one who works a seedy job: head of security at a Toyko Casino who beats up gamblers and collects debts for the owner who's like a father to him. The first half as the plot's set up is better than the second half as the plot is carried out. The casino is taken over by mobsters who kill the owner and his luckess son...

Chuck Norris and Mary-Louise Weller
Before this happens we get to see Chuck travelling around gorgeous-looking Toyko, the white Kung Fu icon handsomely dressed with his own background's background, getting in various fights, and taking care of things at the casino. Then the death of the casino owner happens much too quickly and now we're "forced" the "vengeance" in the title and even though the fighting continues, things simmer down since nothing's left to build...

And the aforementioned babe, Mary-Louise Weller, is both tough and tender, making for more of a partner than vulnerable ingenue, even, according to an interview with us, during warm-up. "Preparing for the fight scene was just like learning new dance steps... Chuck and his brother Aaron trained me for weeks prior: We all joined the South China Seas Athletic Club and blocked and rehearsed there... Both Norris boys were very supportive but I knew they were critiquing every move!" (Click here for more of that Interview, and a newer review.)

title: LONE WOLF McQUADE
rating: ***1/2 year: 1983

Intentionally using Spaghetti Western whistling ala Ennio Morricone gives Chuck Norris a pass; he doesn't have to act, he can just be (not even having to become) the badass with a few close-ups and that familiar music...

Which embodies blood, guns, and tons of action — in this case, martial arts style... The lead villain, an alligator shirt-wearing David Carradine, doesn't say much, but we get to see him doing some of his pop culture Déjà vu Kung Fu and, overall this is one of the best Chuck Norris films. It flows terrifically from tight, simple dialogue to drop-kicking action; and the quick-punch editing gives a Sam Peckinpah quality within the Sergio Leone template: the quicker we get back to the fighting, the better. But (spoiler alert) McQuade's pet wolf dies. Which is just plain unfair. 

title: CODE OF SILENCE
rating: ** year: 1983

This movie looks good, does all the right things, but something just isn't there. THE FUGITIVE Andrew Davis directs with an 80's Walter Hill vibe but all that really happens is Chuck Norris going here and there without getting killed...

Chuck plays a cop who's dealing with a mobster who's out for revenge and his fellow cops aren't much help. There's not enough Martial Arts to appease Chuck fans and not enough action to appease fans of the action genre. The script is clunky and downright confusing at times, leaving the viewer not to guess what's gonna happen next, but what just happened? I watched it an hour ago and I'm still not sure.

title: MISSING IN ACTION
year: 1984 rating: ***

A more subtle "Rambo", and the first picture under Cannon Films, Chuck Norris goes to Saigon on a diplomatic "peaceful" mission to talk to Vietnamese politicians about rescuing American MIAs, but he's not there to negotiate...

Sneaking out of his guarded hotel room in black, he shadows the city, seeking James Hong, a politician that Chuck alone knows is crooked. From here he teams up with former vet M. Emmett Walsh, who seems like the pilot character "Jock" from "Raiders of the lost Ark" if he had more to do. They buy a really neat bulletproof raft, sail into Vietnam, shoot a lot of bad guys and rescue a couple MIAs. That's in a nutshell, and there doesn't need to be anything more than that... except for two sequels. 

title: FIREWALKER
year: 1986 rating: **

One of those comedy action adventures that's so hopped-up from the start, having loads more fun than the audience can catch up to within the first three minutes, it seems more like the opening stage of a highly anticipated sequel than the beginning of something that in itself feels like it's begging for an Indiana Jones style serialized, episodic franchise...

Centering on two desert-roaming fortune-hunters played by Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr. under the direction of Lee J. Thomson, while borrowing full-lipped FLASH GORDON ingenue Melody Anderson, who is, not surprisingly, more at-home within the comedy/action element. And she alone presents their modern day, pulp-yarn, cliché mission of finding gold in a fool's-gold adventure involving a boring bar fight, a misadventurous train ride, and bouts of magical/fantastical elements fitting Chuck's style about as well as his comedic timing; which, actually, isn't all that god-awful. The duo is the problem. Seeming chosen from a random lottery, the white & black partnership's not only bland and unbalanced, they're too much alike, lacking both a straight man and/or comic relief.

title: THE DELTA FORCE
year: 1986 rating: ***1/2

An above-average hijack movie which, unlike others of its ilk, never gets too claustrophobic or tedious since the hostages are moved around, first on an airplane and then the ground...

One hour and twenty minutes into the film the operation to save the hostages begins. The stuff before nicely builds momentum and centers mostly on the hijackers, plane crew and hostages while Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris await on the sidelines to go into action. When the action finally happens it's well worth the wait. Norris on a motorcycle with torpedoes — now that's cool. And Robert Forster is so impressive as the head of the middle eastern terrorist, it may take a few seconds to realize: "Hey, that's..."

INVASION USA 
year: 1985 rating: **1/2

Ironic that Richard Lynch, who burned his face (reportedly) while demonstrating against the Vietnam war i.e. against violence, would wind up a character-actor playing mostly ultra-villain bad guys, especially in INVASION USA...

Which is basically a remake of RED DAWN wherein one teacher getting shot in front of his classroom is altered to a number of Cubans, on the way to Florida, being gunned down by Lynch and his Russian army who plans to take over America but, this being a Cannon Films Film, and while they had enough money to make low-budget look pretty good, it tries too hard to sell the epic plot than letting that plot catch up with the action. What could have been Chuck's very own COMMANDO... one man against a thousand... winds up a collection of scenes full of big explosions, and vice versa. 

CHUCK NORRIS CARTOON
year: 1986 rating: **

Pretty dull cartoon, even during the late 1980's when yours truly was in high school and had already, as the Bible says, "Put Away Childish Things." Trying to imagine what friends five or six years younger would think of this action-based series centering on Chuck Norris and his team of "Karate Kommandos," each beginning with the real Chuck providing an introduction as he's keeping fit in the same workout room, and then we enter the animation...

Chuck now looks a decade-younger, a twin brother of the Brawny Paper Towel guy. While reminiscent of the Hal Sutherland directed STAR TREK cartoons, it's too high-strung to relax a kid enough to let the limitless imagination of each mission pan out — as if they themselves were inventing each episode...

Chuck's Kommandos are uninteresting, especially a fat sumo wrestling sidekick; although Kathy Garver, Sissy from Family Affair... who scribbled the above DVD autograph... as "Pepper," makes for the kind of curvy toon to crush on. That aside, the villains are too serious, the action too quick, and overly-complicated-for-kids dialogue is awkward enough to make this the kind of Saturday Morning routine that wouldn't last more than a season. And yet, like any vintage cartoon, the visuals are pretty cool, enough to geek on within the photo-gallery at the bottom of this epic, catchall Chuck Norris celebration.

Donna Gordon as a dream victim of The Terror
title: HERO AND THE TERROR
rating: ***1/2 year: 1988

Another action/horror where Chuck Norris plays a cop after a relentless seemingly unbeatable monster of a man, but unlike SILENT RAGE, this one works. Jack O'Halloran lurks somewhere within the newly restored Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles where he used to dwell when it was shut down, and is killing women by sneaking through a grate in the restroom...

Known as the Terror, he had just escaped from a mental asylum where Norris's character, the Hero, had put him a year before. Norris is haunted by nightmares of the Terror and now he must find him somewhere within the mazy, complicated structure of the historic L.A. venue. Intense action and horror-like one-by-one killings mix perfectly; along with a little romance which never gets too corny. This is one of the better latter eighties Chuck Norris vehicles. And while it's never good to force a boring romantic element, while his pregent wife is a good character, scenes between the two drag on too long as the killer waits, sometimes, by the audience and our literal HERO, seeming forgotten.
Chuck's "very focused but with a really relaxed way about him." from Mary-Louise Weller, Forced Vengeance
Cool Asian font for Forced Vengeance
from Good Guys Wear Black has Dana Andrews toasting to a bloody bagful of Chuck Norris by James M. Tate
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