Chuck Norris is a Chicago cop Caught up in a mob war in this Gritty 1980s Actioner.
DIRECTED BY ANDREW DAVIS/1985
STREET DATE: DECEMBER 12, 2017/KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
The last good cop in the city must go solo to save the day in Code of Silence, a moderately polished Chuck Norris vehicle set in Chicago.
“The Last Good Cop”… It’s a story that’s been told many times. Too many times, really. Most of the tellings seem to happen around 1985. With synth music, urban haze, stoney stares, and no shortage of blood-packed squibs.
All movie tough guys operate by a code, a code all their own. This was true long before Chuck Norris ever met Bruce Lee, or even practiced martial arts. Quite often, such tough guy personal codes are of the unspoken variety. This is a most convenient trait, considering that most movie tough guy actors aren’t hired for their oratory skills. Therefore, one might say that they are impartial to “codes of silence”.
This where our hero, Chuck Norris, at the peak of his big screen stardom, differs from the pack. His character, Sgt. Eddie Cusack (not exactly a tough guy name, one can’t help but point out), is a do-gooder of few words, it’s true. But in this case, it might have more to do with the fact that his Chicago police cohorts are either intimidated by his awesomeness (he’s seen once and briefly taking martial lessons, so we understand why the character is a master when the time comes) or worse, against him for his uprightness. Windy City corruption in this would-be Dirty Harry sequel extends fully and completely to those who’s sworn duty it is to protect and serve. Protecting and serving themselves is their forte. Hence, the titular code of silence is theirs. Chuck Norris will windmill kick all of them in the skull.
Chuck Norris fights a guy atop the moving L train; other guys topple from high heights; and several other action sequences that are impressive by 1985 standards play out.
When we meet him, he’s adorned in a rugged outfit that vaguely evokes the colors of the American flag, but also nicely offsets his then-trademark orange moppet hair and beard. We watch as his intricately planned drug bust goes very wrong in the opening minutes of the film. During the chaos, an over the hill member of the force accidentally kills a boy, and then plants a gun in his dead hand to cover his own rear. His partner, a timid rookie sees this, but what can he do? The code of silence goes into effect.
Meanwhile, the botched ambush triggers a mob war, with a steely crime lord played by odd screen legend of sorts Henry Silva at the head of it all. His thugs shoot up the town and give out Colombian neckties, which are not the thoughtful fashion accoutrements that they may sound like. Chuck Norris fights a guy atop the moving L train; other guys topple from high heights; and several other action sequences that are impressive by 1985 standards play out. And unbelievably, weirdly buried in the mix, there’s a radio controlled unmanned robotic police tank. It’s got heavy machine guns, a rickety spy scope, and it talks. Shot out from Cannon all the way to Orion, Norris has landed in a gritty cop action movie with just about everything.
Code of Silence is not a deep movie nor a memorable one. It’s is also several steps above what one might expect in terms of stunt work, atmosphere and authentic Chicago cop rapport. With a cast stocked with former and then-current cops, including Dennis Farina, their genuine banter and vibe is captured and maintained by director Andrew Davis. Davis of course would go on to a very prominent career making action films, the high point of which would be the 1993 Best Picture contender, The Fugitive. Chicago, a town near and dear to him, would continue to loom large throughout his filmography.
This special edition Blu-Ray of Code of Silence boasts a very nice looking transfer, perhaps despite the film’s fascinating grey and soft focus photography. The film’s very 1980’s bass-heavy synth fusion score by David Frank pops nicely, as well. Frank is among the four newly recorded video interviews included on the extras. Each runs about ten minutes, give or take, and can get fairly personal and candid. The other three participants are lead actress and then-newcomer Molly Hagan, actor Ron Dean, and screenwriter Michael Butler. Director Davis has a feature length commentary, one of those pleasant but lifeless, useless tracks that were so common in the DVD heyday. Davis tosses out little anecdotes here and there, but nothing on his technique and approach to filmmaking, and surprisingly nearly nothing on working with Chuck Norris.
This, though, is Chuck’s show. One of his bigger and (so they say) better movies, the martial arts champ shows us that sometimes you have to be a team player, and sometimes you need to go it alone. Sometimes you need to speak up during Internal Affairs hearings, and sometimes you need to commandeer the new police robot tank to blow up the bad guys’ warehouse. And sometimes, maybe more than once in the same movie, you just need to go into a bar and beat up everyone in it.
The images in this review are not representative of the actual disc’s image quality, and are included only to represent the film itself.