In 1981, Chuck Norris released his best movie up to that point, though given how underwhelming his first four films were that’s not saying much. Chuck plays Sean Kane, a cop (naturally a martial arts expert given Chuck’s presence) out for revenge after his partner, played by Terry “Weekend at Bernie’s” Kiser is killed during an undercover operation. Sean quits the force and is soon conducting an investigation of his own after his partner’s reporter girlfriend Linda Chan(Rosalind Chao) is murdered by a huge henchman known as The Professor played by Toru Tanaka. Tanaka is well known in the field of action movies with supporting turns in The Running Man, Revenge of the Ninja, The Perfect Weapon and Missing in Action 2. Given those credits, I think it’s safe to say he’s a favorite of mine.
Sean’s investigation leads him to a huge drug smuggling operation run by Linda’s boss Morgan Canfield, played by Christopher Lee. Lee is solid as usual in his few scenes but the fact that this is one of the highlights of his work in the 80’s is not a good sign at all. The bad guys also include the obligatory dirty cop who pretends to be Kane’s buddy.
Kane is aided by Chao’s father James, another martial arts expert played by the late, great Mako. Mako not only serves as the sidekick but also provides some comic relief by almost constantly berating Sean for his apparently sloppy martial arts skills. It’s amusing and one of the few times I can honestly say the comic relief in an action movie is truly funny.
This is a very good thing as pretty much none of the other performances are all that memorable. Chuck is his usual self, Lee sort of coasts through his role and Tanaka makes for a good henchman, though there is a wonderful bit of stupidity as he appears to be wearing elevator shoes which impede his ability to move quickly. This is especially funny in his first scene where he’s chasing the reporter. You almost wonder how it is that he gets even slightly close to his target!
While the action is just fine, the film suffers from some severe pacing issues, as do most of Chuck’s movies. At almost an hour and forty five minutes, it sags in places, though I’m not sure there is anything that could have been cut without hurting what little plot was there to begin with.
Also, Lee’s presence as a villain is not really that much of a surprise as he falls perfectly into the cliché of a big name actor in a seemingly unimportant role turning out to be not what he seems. Its fine for what it needs to be but it’s still utterly predictable.
Chuck would re-team with this movie’s director, Steve Carver, two years later in the excellent Lone Wolf McQuade, a far better movie and one that I have written about over at The Agony Booth.
As for this movie, it’s a perfectly acceptable rainy day action movie that you can sit down and enjoy. Just don’t expect anything mind blowing.