Friday, February 19, 2016

Code Of Silence

In his best film, Chuck Norris plays Eddie Cusack, a Chicago detective shunned by his fellow cops after he testifies against an incompetent colleague (craggy-faced Ralph Foody) who planted a gun on an innocent teenager he accidentally killed. That means Cusack has to go solo against the very dangerous Luis Camacho (Henry Silva, whose last two great bad-guy roles were in this and director Andrew Davis’ ABOVE THE LAW), a Colombian druglord who wants revenge against the Italian mobsters who shot his brother.

CODE OF SILENCE isn’t just good for a Chuck Norris movie. It’s a very good action thriller, period. Davis opens the film with a well-coordinated heist, chase, and shootout in a Chicago slum and lets the action escalate from there. A car chase and explosion on Lower Wacker Drive is impressive, as is a chase atop a barreling elevated train on which you can see Norris doing some of his own stunts. The addition of a missile-shooting radio control robot to the violent warehouse climax is a lot of fun, but seems like overkill in what is otherwise a fairly grounded urban thriller.

It’s no surprise Norris acquits himself quite well in the action scenes, but he’s not bad in the more dramatic scenes either. Perhaps being surrounded by a great supporting cast of local Chicago actors (god, those faces), such as Dennis Farina (MANHUNTER), John Mahoney (FRASIER), and Ron Dean (THE DARK KNIGHT), inspired Chuck to up his game. Certainly, Norris never had a script this good before, nor would he again. The screenplay by THE GAUNTLET’s Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack and THE CHINA SYNDROME’s Mike Gray holds together between action sequences, and Chicago native Davis does a great job capturing the sights and sounds of his hometown. He even shows Norris drinking RC Cola!

CODE OF SILENCE opened in the spring of 1985 and topped the box office for three consecutive weeks, making it one of Norris’ biggest hits. Though the film helped raise Norris’ profile and turn him into a mainstream action star, he signed an exclusive contract with the Cannon Group, which put him in a series of low-budget pictures that weren’t as well received by critics or audiences as CODE OF SILENCE was. Conversely, director Davis moved up to major studio blockbusters, including THE FUGITIVE, which earned seven Academy Award nominations.

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