Code of Silence (1985)

Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Chuck Norris, Henry Silva, Bert Remsen, Molly Hagen, Dennis Farina
Music: David Michael Frank

If you pick up a copy of Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide, and look up Code of Silence, you’ll see a picture of me staring back at you! No, not really – I have always just wanted to say that. Maltin’s Guide describes Code Of Silence as ‘Dirty Chuckie’. It’s an obvious comparison to make, but I have a theory – not a very solid one, but none-the-less – that director Andrew Davis drew his inspiration from the Italian poliziotteschi films, rather than Eastwood’s magnum toting maverick cop.

Firstly, and most overtly, Henry Silva is cast as the villain. I realise Silva was an international actor who plied his stock in trade all over the world, but next to Maurizo Merli and Tomas Milian, he surely has to be considered one of Italian Crime Cinemas most recognisable faces.

Secondly, we have Chuck’s appearance. Sure he has a beard in this movie, but he looks like Merli, or Franco Nero – blonde hair, blue eyes, carrying a badge and a gun. I know that’s pretty thin, but go with me on this.

My third, and most damning piece of evidence is that Chuck gets into a fight in a billiard parlour. A fight in a billiard parlour is almost a prerequisite in a poliziotteschi. Hollywood had given them up after Coogan’s Bluff in 1968.

Another European touch – although French this time, rather than Italian, is that Chuck chases a villain along the roof of a moving train. I am sure that every police thriller starring Jean Paul Belmondo has a scene with him riding on top of a train. In fact, I believe that’s how Belmondo goes to work each day. He doesn’t buy a train ticket, he simply leaps onto the roof of a moving trains as it passes by. Then as he reaches his destination, he jumps off again. Amazing man, but I have digressed.

In this film Chuck Norris plays Eddie Cusack, who is a straight down the line Chicago cop. The film opens with Chuck undercover as a garbage collector. His team of men are planning to bust some of the members of the Comacho family, who are dealing drugs.

Before Cusack and his team can move in, a rival mob gang headed by Crazy Tony Luna (Mike Genovese) hit the Comachos. This is a pretty silly thing to do, because the head of the Comacho mob, Luis, in played by Henry Silva. Luis vows revenge and kills the entire Luna family, except one, Diana (Molly Hagen). Of course, she is next on the hit list, and Cusack steps in to save and protect her. Sounds similar to Forced Vengeance doesn’t it?

There’s a nice subplot that involves a drunken old police officer named Craigie (Ralph Foody). During the opening attempted police raid on the Comachos, in a darkened hallway, Craigie shoots down an innocent boy. Rather rather go through legal proceedings, Craigie then plants a gun on the boy cover it up.

Code Of Silence is Chuck’s second great film. I think he only has two good ones. The success of this film probably comes down to the direction by Andrew Davis. Davis knows his way around an action movie and seemed to have a knack for getting decent performances from wooden leading men. Davis performed the same feat with Steven Seagal, directing his best two films, Above The Law (once again with Menacing Henry Silva) and Under Siege.

Code of Silence really was the pinnacle of Chuck Norris’ career. From here on in, each film seemed to get a little bit worse – dropping from cinema release to direct to video, and then finally TV movies. But to give Chuck his due, he was a pioneer in this sort of thing. He was doing his violent martial arts films long before Seagal, Van Damme or any of their ilk. And his impact was such that even non martial artists had to have martial art fight sequences in their films. Look at Lethal Weapon? Mel Gibson is one of the most unconvincing Martial Artists depicted on screen – aided considerably with some rapid fire editing. But nowadays, every hero has to know a modicum of Kung-fu, Karate, Jujitsu or some other ancient form of violence. No longer is throwing a good punch enough.

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