The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Delta Force (1986)

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Looking only at the Golan-Globus films we're covering this week, this was probably the biggest of the six. It has a pretty star studded cast, with Norris, Martin Balsam, Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, Shelly Winters, Robert Vaughn, and the late Steve James. What's fascinating is how it starts off as essentially a TV drama, and turns into a Norris beatdown.

The Delta Force is based on the real life hijacking of TWA flight 847 in June of 1985. A flight full of Americans leaving Athens is hijacked by two gunmen, and taken first to Beirut, then to Algeria, then back to Beirut, all the while the hostages are threatened, harassed, and the Jewish passengers are singled out. Lee Marvin heads the Delta Force, a special forces unit sent in to retrieve the hostages and take down the hijackers. Right below him on the chain of command is Chuck Norris, and when he finally gets a chance to sink his teeth into the terrorists, it bad news for them.

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This is a hard one to deal with because the first hour and a half plays out like a TV movie drama about a plane hijacking. It's not bad, and does a great job keeping things black and white and letting us know that no matter what, no matter what cause someone is fighting for, violence and hostage taking, especially against innocent people, is unacceptable. Then, the last half hour plays out like some of the best action I've ever seen. Norris drives around in this motorcycle equipped with missile launchers machine guns, then finds the head terrorist, and beats the crap out of him in one of the greatest applause scenes in movie history. It's really a question of, do you like your TV drama topped with a half hour of amazing action?

It is very important to discuss the political implications of Golan and Globus making a film like this. They are Israelis, and the Lebanese terrorists who committed this act at the time were fighting to get Israel out of their country, of which they occupied the southern section of it. I don't think comparing the way the Muslim terrorists treated the Jewish passengers to the way Nazis treated Jews was right, because Palestinians and the Muslims of southern Lebanon have legitimate grievances against the way Israel has treated them; but the rest of the film in my mind was totally above board. If an aggrieved segment of the population decides they need to resort to violence against noncombatants, they should expect their violence to be depicted as despicable, as it was here, and it's no less despicable if the people depicting it have a personal stake in the telling.

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After 9/11, watching a movie where hijackers take over a plane full of Americans is hard to take, which meant watching Chuck Norris beat the crap out of them at the end was all the more enjoyable. That brings up an interesting issue, though. In school, we looked at two main goals that terrorists have when they carry out their crimes. The first is to hurt a small percentage of the population in order to scare the rest to do what they want. The other is to anger the rest of the population to the point they overreact, which in some cases can be worse. The US spent all of its goodwill it garnered after 9/11 with the Guantanamo prisons and the war in Iraq, but after seeing this movie, I can see better why Americans supported those measures. Because the terrorists who committed the 9/11 atrocities died with their victims, we didn't have anyone for Chuck Norris to kick the crap out of, so to speak, and we needed that.

I must point out again, though, that this wasn't all seriousness. That last half hour was amazing action, and we wanted it more because we had the first hour and a half of these bastard terrorists that we wanted to get their comeuppance. When the head baddie sneaks into that abandoned house, and Chuck Norris jumps through the window with his motorcycle, I have to believe the whole theater cheered. This was the problem for me with Walker: Texas Ranger, the bad guys were often way cooler than he was, so I couldn't root for him. I was rooting for him here, though, and it was great. As fine an example of pre-Walker Norris as there is out there. I wonder, too, looking at the paragraph above, if maybe we could convince Norris to get back into his pre-Walker days and do movies like this again, just so we could all feel better as a nation.

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Before I wrap this up, I have to give a shout out again to DTVC favorite Steve James. It was good to see him in a film that didn't involve ninjas, though it would've been nice to see more of his martial arts. I thought this might have been the most successful film he's ever been in, but he had an uncredited role in Weird Science. Let's say this was the most successful film he had a major role in. A great actor who left us before his time.

It's hard to figure out what the right conclusion is for this movie. As an action fan, really the only last half hour is important, but it's vitally important. As an anthropology major who focused on Middle Eastern studies and problems of violence and terrorism, I appreciated the way the hijacking was depicted, even if the story was told by two Israelis. I guess it would've been better if the film had a clearer identity-- either TV drama or low-budget actioner-- but on some levels it still works. Just know that of the total running time of two hours, only the last thirty minutes is action packed. (But it's really action packed!)

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090927/

2 comments:

  1. Well, you hit perfectly on what was always my problem with this film -- the length and structure. When you watch a Golan-Globas/Chuck Norris film, you go in with certain expectations, and quite simply this didn't meet them for me due to the first 2/3's of the film. So, I've never really enjoyed this movie, because rewatching it is quite a chore.

    I guess I COULD just go to that last 30 mintues and be happy with that :)

    Oh, and since it's based on a true story, I'm hoping it's true that the hostages were rescued by a man with missile launchers strapped to his motorcycle...I don't see that on Wikipedia, but a man can dream.

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  2. That's what makes it hard to recommend because that last half hour is so amazing. I think Norris on the bike was Golan and Globus getting out some pent up rage at Hezbollah, but I really think a movie where Chuck Norris went out to Afghanistan or something and ran through a terrorist organization on a motorcycle like that would be awesome. Maybe like a Heart of Darkness style plot with a twist.

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