Friday, November 03, 2017

An Eye For An Eye (1981)

Released by Avco Embassy in 1981, AN EYE FOR AN EYE is one of Chuck Norris’ better pre-Cannon outings. It makes good use of its star’s unique skills set by staging several exciting fight scenes and surrounding Norris with a very capable supporting cast. Best of all is its climax, which leans into James Bond territory for a budget-busting shootout between cops and bad guys on the lawn of a swanky hillside estate. Outside of the finale, director Steve Carver (Norris’ LONE WOLF MCQUADE) doesn’t use San Francisco to its fullest, oddly enough.

Norris was churning out a film a year at the time, progressively adding scale and more accomplished co-stars in a consistent bid for mainstream success. He was still known primarily as a martial artist or “chopsocky” star when AN EYE FOR AN EYE came out, but by the time he struck gold at Cannon, he was just as likely to use an Uzi as his feet.

San Francisco cop Sean Kane (Norris) watches his partner Dave Pierce (Terry Kiser, WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S) get murdered in an ambush. Dave’s girlfriend Heather, a television reporter (the very good Rosalind Chao, still acting on television three decades later), is killed by the same gang. Quitting the force under pressure from his boss (SHAFT’s Richard Roundtree, adding class to a stereotypical role), Kane goes about tracking down Dave’s killer on his own.

Kane finds support from his martial arts instructor James (THE SAND PEBBLES’ Mako), as well as Heather (Maggie Cooper), Linda’s co-worker at the TV station. The criminal conspiracy surrounding Dave’s death leads all the way to Linda and Heather’s boss: Morgan Canfield (the great Christopher Lee), the head of a global heroin smuggling ring.

It gives little away to reveal Canfield as the mysterious druglord — hell, he’s played by Christopher Lee, isn’t he? Though the plotting by writers William Gray (PROM NIGHT) and James Bruner (MISSING IN ACTION) is typical television crime drama fare, the story is strong enough to hold together Carver’s action scenes and give the fine supporting cast something to do. Mako is entertaining in a comic relief role, Matt Clark (WHITE LIGHTNING) is reliably solid in another cliché cop part, and Mel Novak and Stuart Pankin are colorful criminals. The exception is TV actress Cooper (SPACE ACADEMY), who’s wooden despite her special “Introducing” billing and just as awkward in the romantic scenes as Norris is.

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