Home Video Hovel- Delta Force, by West Anthony

Wow.  I knew Menahem Golan, one half of the Golan-Globus axis of awful, had produced some crappy movies, but I had no idea that he directed some as well.  The Delta Force is a dismal exercise in substandard ’80s action filmmaking featuring another in a long string of wooden leading performances by Chuck “who made HIM a star?” Norris.   Not even the presence of Lee Marvin — the only reason I agreed to watch this dreck in the first place — saves the film from its ill-paced tedium punctuated with occasional bursts of gunfire and curiously subdued explosions.

An airliner populated with what passes in B-moviedom for an all-star cast (Martin Balsam, Shelley Winters, George Kennedy… Joey Bishop?) is hijacked by terrorists and diverted to Beirut.  Robert Forster gamely plays the head terrorist, and that’s about as believable as it sounds.  Colonel Nick (Marvin) is tasked with sending his Delta Force into Beirut and extracting the hostages with a minimum of casualties and a maximum of calamity.  Norris is Major Scott McCoy, the team’s resident hotshot daredevil (and NOT the leader of Seattle band The Young Fresh Fellows — different spelling) who gets to ride a motorcycle with rockets mounted on the front AND back.  The rest of the Delta Force is populated with a bunch of undefined strangers, with the exception of the imaginatively named Pete Peterson (William Wallace) — you see how much effort they put into this picture?  It’s frankly unfair that I have to put in more effort to write about it.

Lee Marvin, one of the greatest movie stars ever (The Big Heat, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Dirty Dozen, other movies not necessarily beginning with The), is thoroughly wasted as Colonel Nick — somehow he doesn’t even rate top billing in what turned out to be his last picture.  He gets to bark orders and glower impatiently and suchlike, but it’s Chuck Norris who handles all the heavy lifting action-wise.  And absolutely nothing acting-wise.  It’s excruciating to watch Norris’ labored grimace as he strains to look like a grieving comrade whose brother in arms bit the big one… I tried to think of a really good, offensive simile for what he actually looked like, but when you get down to it, what could be more offensive than telling someone they look like a lousy Chuck Norris performance?  The other actors — what am I saying?! — the actors in this film fare little better.  Folks like Robert Vaughn and Susan Strasberg barely register, and even Shelley Winters (who is incapable of giving a subdued performance) fails to enliven the proceedings.

By the time the party gets to Beirut and things get more shooty and explodey, it’s too little too late — at 128 minutes, this picture should have ended at seventy.  Golan handles action sequences about as well as he handles drama — poorly — and the pyrotechnics feel really cheap.  (Seriously, what’s up with those explosions?  With the exception of the exploding helicopter at the beginning of the film, they all look like budget restrictions required them to cut back on fuel by 30%.  They should have at least compensated with extra-loud sound effects, but no dice.)  The director tries to paper over the cracks in the entertainment with Alan Silvestri’s repetitive, synth-heavy ’80s score, but in addition to being wildly irritating the first time you hear it — to say nothing of the other fifty-two — the music also feels glaringly inappropriate for the subject matter, as though the soundtrack from a Jane Fonda exercise video had been dropped in by mistake.  Silvestri has done far better work before (Back To The Future) and since (Predator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Avengers) — here his efforts are woefully substandard.  But with this movie, why should he be an exception?

The Reagan ’80s brought a decade’s worth of wretched rah-rah-USA drivel in which square-jawed ‘Muricans dealt righteous thrashings to various foreign-accented ethnic groups with our moral superiority and indomitable ass-kickulence.  Chuck Norris may well have been the greatest and certainly most inexplicable beneficiary of this polluted wave — Sylvester Stallone and Tom Cruise at least had acting ability and star power on their side, and Arnold Schwarzenegger got a lot of mileage out of dispatching bad guys with a dreadful quip or three, but what in the wide world of sports does Chuck Norris have?  Hell, DEAN Norris (DEA agent Hank Schrader on TV’s Breaking Bad) would make a more plausible and engaging action star than this bearded cinderblock.  The Delta Force wants to be a blockbuster along the lines of a Rambo or Top Gun; what it turns out to be is a sorry excuse for an action movie and a waste of valuable resources… AND Chuck Norris, if such a thing is possible.

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