Starring : Chuck Norris , Anne Archer
Directed By: Ted Post
Review compiled by ''theflyingninja'' , and used with permission.
Intelligent and Wordy , But where's the Action ?
Back in the late 70s, martial arts champion Chuck Norris was pursuing his dream to continue the success he'd had in the ring, but this time in Hollywood. Receiving the acting bug after his legendary appearance battling Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon, he featured in a few small fighting roles in various films before starring as the main villain in the awful low-budget Golden Harvest film Yellow-Faced Tiger (aka Slaughter in San Francisco), before making his leading-man debut in the hardly-seen Breaker! Breaker! It wasn't a bad film, in my opinion, but Chuck was getting pretty disillusioned with his lack of progress and so he and a friend came up with the idea behind Good Guys Wear Black. Touting the idea around various production companies, they were met with much resistance - investors didn't want to pour money into a Karate movie, a genre considered dead in the West after the death of Bruce Lee.
Chuck Norris' autobiography Against All Odds chronicles his struggle to get the film made, and fans of martial arts movies should be thankful for his persistence as, without him and his belief in the martial arts movie genre at a time when producers didn't want to touch them with a 10-foot pole, the world of 80s and 90s action cinema would be a very different place. Of course the question is, as important as Good Guys Wear Black is in the genesis of Western martial arts cinema, is it actually any good? Weeeell.....
Directed by Ted Post (Hand 'Em High, Magnum Force), the film stars Norris as John T. Booker, a Major in the US Army who is sent, along with his unit of 12 soldiers - the 'Black Tigers' - into Vietnam to rescue M.I.As (Missing in Actions). Unfortunately, while there, his team are ambushed and many of them are killed. The film then skips forward 5 years and Chuck is now a Professor of Political Science, likes to test-drive super-cars in his spare time and has grown a mustache. Then he meets nosy but sexy journalist Margaret (played by later Academy Award nominee Anne Archer) who tells him that she has reason to believe the ambush back in Vietnam was a CIA set-up. Initially, Booker isn't too interested. Until, that is, the surviving members of the Black Tigers start getting picked off one by one! I won't give away too much, as one of the few things this film has going for it is its intriguing plot, but Booker and Margaret soon uncover a political cover-up that goes right to Washington and the very top, involving slimy Secretary of State Conrad Morgan, played by James Franciscus of 'Longstreet' fame.
Like i said, its an intriguing plot, and there are some great performances across the board. The problem - and its a big one - lies in the fact that its just far, far too boring. All the characters seem to do is talk endlessly at each other. Sure, the dialogue is very intelligent, snappy and well-written, but its still just too much for the viewer - no character seems to use just one word where fifty would do and, like in life, if someone talks too much, you just stop listening. To give Norris credit, he mentions in his autobiography that he noticed this problem himself when his friend Steve McQueen brought it to his attention, and Norris' later movies show that he listened to this criticism, and that a character doesn't have to babble constantly to be memorable - quite the opposite, in fact.
To summarise this movie would go thus - first half an hour: lots of blahblahblah followed by a night-time raid on a Vietnamese POW camp that is so dark you can barely make out whats going on. Second half an hour - even more blahblahblah followed by a 'plane blowing up. Third half an hour - a shed-load of blahblahblah (real boring drivel this time), followed by a decent fight scene (at last! Chuck looks fast and deadly in this scene, taking on three attackers in a car park. If only there was more of this!), followed by even more blahblahblah, this time in the back of a car. The End.
Points of interest i noted along the way were - 1) Chuck looks uncomfortable wearing baseball caps, perching them precariously atop his head. I'm guessing he's more of a Stetson kinda guy. 2) This was Chucks first collaboration with his brother Aaron, as fight choreographer. Aaron would later go on to direct his brother several times. 3) Correct me if i'm wrong, but in the bedroom scene, Anne Archer appears to be wearing no underwear under her very short night-dress. Yikes! 4) It features Chucks first appearance opposite Soon-Tek Oh, who would later fight him in Missing in Action 2 (1985) and The Presidents Man (2000). 5) How could i not mention Chucks iconic flying-kick-through-a-car-windshield scene? Much copied, and many years later re-enacted by Chuck in an episode of Walker Texas Ranger, its a martial arts movie image as memorable as Bruce Lee breaking mirrors in Enter the Dragon or Van Damme kicking the tree in Kickboxer!
Overall then, a hugely important film to martial arts movie buffs, not only to Chuck Norris' career but to the genre as a whole. But as a film? Intelligent, well-acted, well-written but hugely boring. With such few action scenes and only a couple of short fight scenes, as an action movie it fails on every level. If you want a very early Chuck film, watch Breaker! Breaker! instead - Norris hates it, and it didn't do a lot for his career, but to a fan of martial arts films, it delivers fairly well.
Review Date: February 2011
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