From the director of The Fugitive comes a riveting, turbo-charged crime thriller starring international action star Chuck Norris ("Walker, Texas Ranger"). Exploding with heart-stopping chases and lethal martial arts confrontations, it's a "daring" (Washington Post) and "suspenseful" (Box Office) adventure that pits an honest cop against two vicious crime lords - and his own department.
Eddie Cusack (Norris) is a Chicago detective who plays by his own rules - a dangerous habit, especially when he breaks the 's "code of silence" to blow the lid off a deadly police cover-up. Now an outcast, he receives little help from his embittered fellow officers when he's hurled into a blistering battle against rival drug kingpins. But Cusack is a one man army, waging war on the criminals with his razor-sharp wits, lightning-fast Karate moves and a special surprise: "Prowler," a remote-controlled, rocket-equipped tank!
There's a man out there who is more myth and legend than reality. They say his beard killed a man. They say he counted to infinity, twice even. They say he can hear sign language. They say he can kill your imaginary friends. This man has a name: Chuck Norris. Chuck's wild high-kicking legs clad in denim stretch pants are the things of legend. He got his start in movies at the urging of his pal Bruce Lee, but he never quite had the charisma to fully embody the leading action man persona. There are three things you can count on with any Norris movie: a steely-eyed stare, a well-trimmed beard, and plenty of high-flying karate kicks. Director Andrew Davis' 1985 police actioner Code of Silence sports everything you've come to expect from a Chuck Norris movie, only a muddled plot keeps the flick from truly coming to life.
Chicago Tactical Sargent Eddie Cusack (Chuck Norris) is one good cop. An honest cop who doesn't take any crap from the gangs of criminals or any corrupt cops on the force. Unfortunately, he's stuck with both. After a bust goes bad, Cusack is targeted by crime boss Luis Comacho (Henry Silva). But because Cusack won't go to bat for a cop on his team implicated in shooting an unarmed kid and planting evidence, none of his fellow brothers in blue will back his play. Without help, Cusack must take on the mob and clean up the streets of Chicago all on his own - and his robot assualt vehicle.
When you look at the career trajectory of Chuck Norris, there's a very fine point where things got silly for the man. It was around the time he teamed up with Golan/Globus and their movie machine Cannon Films that Norris' work gradually became more and more over the top. From doing low rent Rambo ripoffs to stopping the Communist invasion of the United States single-handed, Norris was prominently featured in some of the best action movies of the 80s. However, these flicks are pretty difficult to take seriously. Where Schwarzenegger sought out superstardom with big budget summer tentpole movies and Stallone vacillated between dramas and blood and guts shoot 'em ups, Norris more or less decided to just do the same thing again and again. So long as he wore a beard, blue jeans, and a flannel shirt, there's really very little to distinguish one Norris movie from the next.
However, right smack dab in the middle of the Cannon Films churn and burn output was Code of Silence. While the film may try to do too much with itself, it's a competently paced and well put together little action flick - that just so happened to feature Norris' signature kicks. It's a fun little action movie that just doesn't manage itself very well to be a truly great 80s action classic.
For starters, there's just too much plot going on. With Norris' Cusack taking on the mob lead by Henry Silva, that's enough plot for one movie. But then he's also stuck protecting a young girl played by Molly Hagan who is the daughter of another mob boss. That element helps raise some of the stakes, but it really doesn't make much sense as to why Cusack would be in the position of rescuing her since he doesn't have any real personal relationship with the girl. Top that off with the extra story about how none of his police pals beyond his partner and best friend played by Dennis Farina want to work with him or will cover his back. There's just a lot of extra plot going on for this to be a clean and neat action thriller. That said, Norris does get a robot assault vehicle for the big shootout finale so that's something!
As an early effort for Andrew Davis behind the camera, Code of Silence is pretty good. He'd find his groove with Above The Law and would perfect his penchant for clever everyman action flicks with The Fugitive. This flick also gives Chuck Norris some time to shine. Of his 80s action movies, his Eddie Cusack is the most believable - except for the fights he gets himself into. While it's a lot of fun to see Norris strut his stuff and fling those feet, I can't shake the idea of how much better this movie would have been if it didn't rely on staging a fight where Norris fights off 20 men who attack him one at a time. If he'd kept his feet on the ground, Code of Silence could well have been one of his best efforts. As it stands, it's terrific mindless fun. If you want to just kick back and relax, this is a great flick to enjoy with a bunch of friends, a few brews, and some Chicago-style pizza.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Code of Silence arrives on Blu-ray in a new special edition release from Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed on to a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for other Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Well, if you're like me and were hoping for a new scan for this flick, you're going to be a bit disappointed to learn that this 1080p 1.88:1 transfer is the exact same one as the 2012 release from MGM. I was really looking forward to grabbing some fresh new comparison screen grabs but no dice. Not to say that one was terrible or unwatchable, but it was definitely flawed. While there is a grain presence and there is some fine details in close ups and middle shots, a lot of the film can be a bit murky in places. Some shots in darkly lit areas are especially soft and hazy looking. Daylight outdoor scenes are where this transfer shines best with some decent details and stronger colors. Black levels are a bit on the hazy brown side, but there is an appreciable sense of depth to the image. Like I said, this isn't bad, but a new scan would have greatly benefited this release.
Where this release gets a nice improvement is in the audio department. The previous 2012 release was given a rather lifeless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. That mix is brought back for this release as an option, but we're also given a very strong English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix that is more in keeping with the stylings of the film. It's a bit more front-loaded, but it also isn't as soft sounding as the 5.1 mix. Dialogue sounds clearer. Sound effects are a bit on the standard 80s heavy-handed side of things, those gunshots sound like cannons exploding in all the best ways. LFE really comes to life during the big action beats. Those punches and kicks never sounded better. This 2.0 track is a clear improvement over the forced 5.1 mix. Make sure in the menu setting you select this track as the disc defaults to the 5.1 mix.
Another huge improvement for this release comes in the form of the bonus features package. The previous 2012 release was given a piddly theatrical trailer, this new release is given a full slate of great new features including an awesome commentary track with Andrew Davis and four great cast and crew interviews. Fans of the flick will really enjoy picking through these.
Audio Commentary: featuring director Andrew Davis - a great listen!
Writer Michael Butler Interview (HD 10:02) This is a great interview where Butler details the origin of the film as originally being a Dirty Harry sequel that wasn't picked up and instead transported to Chicago instead of San Francisco as a vehicle for Norris.
Interview With Actor Ron Dean (HD 9:47) Dean is a great presence and a Chicago local and gives a lot of info about working on the film.
Interview With Actress Molly Hagan (HD 12:58) Hagan has some great anecdotes about working on the film. Her audition process sounded like a painful good time. She even dishes a bit about Norris and his presence on set.
Interview With Composer David Michael Frank (HD 12:28) Frank was a longtime standby for Andrew Davis, if you've seen Code of Silence and Above The Law, the two scores are nearly identical so it's great to hear him talk about his relationship with Davis and working on this film.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:38)
The Package Trailer (SD 2:18)
Hero and the Terror Trailer (HD 1:26)
Delta Force 2 Trailer (SD 1:41)
An Eye For An Eye Trailer (HD1:52)
When it comes down to Code of Silence you're going to have to ask yourself how much of a Norris completionist you really are. I enjoy the hell out of the movie because it's just a good time, but it's not one of Norris' most memorable films from the 80s. It's good for a fun time with friends who like their action stars bearded and need some brainless entertainment. Kino Lorber Studio Classics pulls together a decent Special Edition release of this flick. Sadly, the picture hasn't been upgraded with a new transfer, but the audio gets a nice boost and the newly assembled bonus features package is robust and is well worth picking through. A double dip may be a tough sell for this title, but if you're a Norris fan and didn't purchase the previous release, this is the edition to go for. Recommended.