Monday, November 28, 2011

Code of Silence (1985)

Chuck's first sort of A-list picture is a bit of a troublesome one for me.  On the one hand, it is a very well made, tense action movie with a surprisingly decent Norris performance, a fun supporting turn from Dennis Farina, Henry Silva as the main baddie and some nicely choreographed action scenes.

On the downside, it does a few things that are surefire ways for a movie to piss me off.

Norris plays Eddie Cusack, your basic tough guy hero cop who heads a task force on crime in the Chicago area.  We see the team in action as they take down one of Luis Comacho's (Henry Silva) operations.  It all goes fairly well apart from an incident on a rooftop where drunk cop Craigie (Ralph Foody) shoots an unarmed kid and plants a gun on him, warning his rookie partner to not tell anyone about it.

Cusack learns about this and advises the rookie to testify against the veteran cop as well as testifying himself, an act that gets him blacklisted by the entire squad with the exception of his partner, played by Dennis Farina.  In addition, Comacho ends up back in the fold as he starts a brutal war with an Italian crime boss in the city played by Mike Genovese.  Naturally, he has a daughter who gets involved with Cusack and all the plots end up being resolved in a warehouse shootout featuring a rather silly (yet awesome at the same time) armored robot Cusack uses to thin out the bad guys before going in himself.

The main problem with Code of Silence is that there are quite simply too many plots for the lean 100 minute running time to sustain.  Andrew Davis (Under Siege, The Fugitive, The Package) is a good director and he usually has a very good command of his story but here he gets mired in an overstuffed script that tries to be so many things at once that it just ends up muddled.

The action is decent with a nice fight on an elevated train but for every good action sequence there is a long,m drawn out trip through the gun planting subplot that just wrecks any tension the film builds up.  It gets to the point where the plot with Comacho and the Italians is almost glossed over  and as the film progresses, it becomes achingly clear that Davis is trying to make a serious cop thriller starring Chuck Norris as opposed to a fun Chuck Norris movie.  Yes, counting on Chuck to act.  It almost works, to be fair.

I have no problem with a complex thriller as there are few things more frustrating than a movie that just sits there and expects you to cheer simply because things are exploding.  The problem is in the execution.  The cop subplot is well acted and all but it takes up far too much time and is done in a deeply unoriginal manner.  Cusack learns about the rooftop incident and has a heart to heart with the rookie.  Craigie is clearly a burnout who probably should be riding a desk but of course, since he has seniority when the hero who all the other cops have supported before the movie started complains about him, the entire squad room turns on him to the point of refusing to send backup for a bar brawl.

This would be tiresome enough but the way it all ends is nothing short of infuriating.  After the gun planting is revealed, the squad feels bad about it and rides out to back up Cusack but of course, by the time they get there he's already killed every bad guy in sight.  Rather than being rightly pissed off at them, he simply forgives them and walks off as the credits roll.  I have a major problem with this just on a personal level.  Sorry but if I'm a cop and my squad is that quick to go from loving me to hating me and back again, I don't ever want to go through a door with them behind me for the rest of my life.

I'm not saying it should have ended with Cusack telling his squad to stick it where the sun doesn't shine but if you're going to be giving this much time to the cop plot, a little more in the way of resolution is helpful.  Ironically, Davis would do a similar riff on this movie three years later with Steven Seagal's debut Above the Law which is a much more cohesive movie.

In the end, Code of Silence works just fine when it sticks to Chuck vs. the bad guys but it grinds to a halt when the cop subplot comes into play which is far too often.  If you really want a good serious thriller from Andrew Davis, I recommend The Package with Gene Hackman.  It's well made, well acted and it doesn't get in the way of its own story.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.