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Code of Silence

***
1985

‘…a good cop movie about a good cop…’

Guns have always been part of the identity of American life; in 2021, things have passed beyond parody to tragedy, with representatives elected on promises to bring weapons into the political workplace and endorsing the execution of their rivals. In movies, there’s nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot, as Dirty Harry once said, and Dirty Harry IV: Code of Silence was the original title for this script when developed in the 70’s. Having just seen his vigilante cop character paired with a woman (Tyne Daly) in The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood obviously thought that the robot partner featured here was a step too far. The script was retooled for a manlier type, and they don’t get any manlier than Chuck Norris, a man so manly than Covid-19 seeks inoculation against him.

Norris has been on the rise since his friendships with Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen propelled him to leading man status with outdoorsy romps like Lone Wolf McQuade. Signing to the Cannon imprint promised to narrowcast his appeal to fans only, but Code of Silence is a big studio film for Orion and tamps down some of the incredulity that dogged Norris’ work for Cannon. Ed-209 style robot partners aside, Norris broke out to mainstream audiences with this tough, cop-corruption thriller directed by Andrew Davies. The director went on to create action classic The Fugitive, and demonstrates the same fierce grasp of action and location here. Norris plays Eddie Cusack, a Man With No Backstory, presumably because the role was originally written for the well-established Harry Callahan. With no family, friends or domestic home-life to speak of, Cusack is dedicated to tracking down bad guys; crooked cop Craigie (Ralph Foody) is given to framing black kids for his own fatal mistakes, and Luis Comancho (Henry Silva) is opening up a gang-war on the streets of Chicago. It’s a bad world, but only one man can make the difference…

‘I hear they call you stainless steel on the street,’ enquires a passer by, and Norris lives up to that description, delivering the action in terms of two decent hand-to-hand combat scenes, a spark-striking underground car chase, and a dramatic chase/kidnapping scene that ends up with Chuck fighting on top of Chicago’s L train as it speeds though the city. Cleaned up and recalibrated for Norris, Code of Silence is a decidedly urban cop-fantasy, sticking more firmly to reality than the last two Dirty Harry movies, and bringing in a healthy x3 multiple at the box office as a hard-earned reward. Oh, and Chuck’s car’s is pretty hot too….

Like Eastwood’s Magnum Force, Code of Silence is a good cop movie about a good cop that sets a maverick amongst lawless lawmakers; we can see exactly how centred our hero is because of the rampant corruption around him. Norris gives his career-best performance here, and looks great even in neckerchiefs and a two-tone baseball jacket; his piece de resistance is a boots, jeans and woolly jumper/leather jacket combo which is exactly what I would wear every day if I could pick my own clothes. With the lines between good and bad being deliberately blurred right now, it’s a pleasure to relax back into nostalgia for yesterday, and when you seek such intellectual solace, you literally cannot even begin to think about beating Chuck Norris. He’ll whip your ass every time.

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  1. Most excellent review; didn’t know script had Callahan/ Eastwood in mind. Used to be Norris fan; heard about his charities and other good work, then articles starting appearing about his politics and personal views. Double checked. Most proved to be true, alarming, and disheartening. Now I consider him Kung fu phooey… never ceases to amaze me how big business markets Hollywood, and how seldom people look deeper to see their stars are nothing but tarnished tin

    • I will take this under advisement; in general, I try to avoid taking in biographical details, and purposely didn’t read any info. Filtered through your words, this doesn’t sound great at all. In this case, I’ll ‘print the legend’, As they say, but will also do some homework; thanks for pointing this out!

  2. Hurray! You made a Chuck Norris joke! The Bookstooge fully approves.

    As much as I like Chuck, my exposure to his films has been pretty slim because Prime is cheap and won’t show his films for free. Can you believe that? Bunch of commie pinkos if you ask me.

    As for beards, I fully support Chuck Norris beardage and encourage others to follow suit. I do, every winter. By March I’m practically his twin and if you stood us next to each other you could only tell us apart because I’m the more handsome one.

    • Fraggle does not like a beard, so it will have to go. I do like a bit of Norris, but this is the big star vehicle that perhaps doesn’t show his martial arts much, but gives him big action scenes, a decent part, and real macho opportunities to be a man’s man. Much like yourself, I’d imagine…

      • Fraggle’s going to have to deal with the Beardage. On that issue I can’t budge.

        So not so much martial arts as just punching the heck out of everyone he sees and shooting them? I think I could handle that.

        • There’s a couple of scenes in which he shows he can move, martial arts style, but it’s more about shooting everyone, which as a cop in a war zone, is his constitutional right, I think…

          • yeah, still works for me. And it’s not just his Constitutional Right, but his Duty as an American Citizen!
            Now, the important thing.
            Does he ask for a year’s supply of coke?
            😀 😀 😀

            • Chuck would not approve of that joke. But I’d recommend this film as a bad asses bad ass movie, He’s not self-parody, reins it in, gives a good performance, dispenses justice in short order…classic Norris!

  3. Was never a Norris fan having embarked on a self-imposed inoculation against him so never took much note of storyline or director to see if this might break out of the biff-bam cycle. Andrew Davies is definitely a step in the right direction.

    • Good director, better script than required, Dennis Farina in there; if you only see one Norris film, this is the one….

    • I wish they’d just cut the ED-209 cop out, I deducted a star just for that. Didn’t know the script was so expensive, but to be honest, it’s well crafted. We can firmly agree; this is the best film that Norris ever made, and should be avaliable on prescription right now worldwide.

      • Yeah, the robot didn’t belong here, especially in a movie that was supposed to be all about the grit. The jump off the train was pretty spectacular though.

        • Just reading that the undergound car-chase is where they filmed The Dark Knight, that makes sense…the train stuff is absolutely top-notch, in an era where Bond money could not buy that kind of action. No green-screen, and Norris really looks like he’s on top of that train…

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