Thunderously exciting and thoroughly entertaining, the film still packs a punch
The Delta Force Blu-ray Review
Tool-up for Chuck’s finest hour as he leads The Delta Force against desperate terrorists who have hijacked a US passenger plane and dispersed the hostages all over the Middle East.
The sabre-rattling 1986 Cannon film recreates two real-life incidents that mocked US might on the global policing map. The disastrous attempt by the genuine Delta Force to rescue the hostages from Tehran in 1980, and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 with the horrific murder of an American Navy diver before the world’s cameras. Surprisingly, the sprawling Golan-Globus production is deadly accurate in its depiction of these events, adopting a highly emotional tone of dread and despair and, of course, patriotic anger.But then, in a deliberate and perhaps even necessary shift of cinematic catharsis, the film’s final third is an all-out assault of comic-book violence and uber-heroism as Chuck and his black-garbed commandos wage a relentless vendetta against hordes of terrorists and blow up a sizable chunk of Beirut in a beautifully bombastic blitzkrieg.
A chest-beating retaliation to the increasingly volatile rise in global terrorism, The Delta Force strikes a primal chord that resonates just as emphatically Post 9/11. With strong emotional and cultural drama fuelling our anger and whitening our knuckles, we can be totally forgiven for cheering alongside the valiant do-or-die good guys in black as they tear through the Middle East on rocket-launching dirt-bikes and in Mad Max-style dune-buggies, whooping as Jihadists are mown-down, immolated or beaten to a pulp by Super Chuck.
Rollicking righteous payback.
What is The Delta Force Blu-ray Picture Quality
My friend has the US Blu of The Delta Force – although it vacationed at my house for some considerable time – and I can safely say that Arrow’s transfer nudges ahead of it in several departments. The AVC encode has more stability and a smoother appearance. Colours seems better saturated and contrast more faithful and accurate. In terms of actual detail, there is little in it, really, but the Arrow disc certainly looks more immediately impressive and, coupled with the advances in the image elsewhere, it becomes clear that the UK release wins the day.
The 1.85:1 image retains its grain. No de-noising here. Some dirt, speckles and debris can appear, but these only seem to add to the gritty veneer of the film’s grubby story and largely squalid setting. The image can alternate between grain-mired and then much cleaner – the Israeli intelligence officer driving up to Chuck and Marvin as they put their troops through training, for example. I have no doubt that this is down to the source.
Chuck’s face is craggier than Marvin’s, and this transfer allows you to navigate each crack, fissure and gulley in the war-god’s visage. Once you have penetrated the resplendent ginger foliage that festoons his head, of course. Don’t say it’s brown. Or it’s blonde. Or it’s … spit … spit … strawberry blonde. Chuck is a ginger … and proud of it. I know. I am one, too. And the transfer bestows his tousled mullet a lustre in the sunshine that belies the dust and the grime and the gun-smoke.
Detail, despite the flatter appearance of the image, as a whole, reveals plenty of things that earlier versions kept obscured
A lot of Cannon films tended to have a soft and flat, though colourful aesthetic. Filming by the numbers meant little in the way of actual cinematic flair. Tobe Hooper struck out with Lifeforce – another glowing transfer from Arrow – but Cannon action could be fiercely two-dimensional and TV shallow. I’d love to say that The Delta Force breaks with this tradition, but even with lots of exterior shots and location work, and some complex set-piece scenarios, it still looks quite mundane. Depth is improved, of course, but don’t expect any dazzling spatiality to the frame. Views down the flame-littered, body-strewn Damascus Road don’t exactly produce any tangible sense of distance.
Colours are great, but they are still unmistakably sweaty and glowering. Despite rich primaries, there is a consistently dusty and grimy aspect to the palette. This works well with the unwashed characters and the grubby, dry settings. The nifty blue lights on the buggies and bikes contrast well against the highly satisfying blacks during the night-time battles. Flames and muzzle-flashes also register very well against the darker elements. Explosions are bright and contain the thick orange and black heart of destruction that lend the effect heft and ferocity. The Stars and Stripes shoulder tabs are brighter than ever, as is the occasional lick of paint on the dilapidated buildings that becomes the Delta battleground.
Detail, despite the flatter appearance of the image, as a whole, reveals plenty of things that earlier versions kept obscured. Bloodstains and bodies on the deck. Bullet-holes in walls. The working-parts on the weapons. At first, none of this really seems to amount to much. The film was never all that crisp and clear, anyway. But these elements do add up to deliver a transfer that is actually quite rewarding.
I’m not entirely convinced that some sharpening hasn’t taken place, though. There is ringing around characters and objects that I noticed as being quite glaring at times. Now, it is possible that this is merely part and parcel of the photography and the glaring sunlight during much of the filming, but I was distracted by this on occasion. However, you might not be. The US disc, if I remember correctly, seemed more artificial-looking on the digital front.
How Does The Delta Force Blu-ray Sound
No surround remix for Chuck’s Delta boys. Arrow stick with a finely produced track boasting the original uncompressed 2.0 PCM stereo mix.
This is a buoyant sound design that owes much of its dynamics to Alan Silvestri’s awesome pounding synth score. The gunfire is crisp and clear. Dialogue is always clean and discernible. The bodily impacts nice and weighty. Explosions have some oomph and debris-skittling detail too. But no matter how bombastic the action gets, it is always propelled by the infectiously rhythmic main theme for the Delta Force that is so unbelievably catchy that it wisely smothers much of the movie’s key sequences. Performed by Silvestri on the uniquely 80’s Synclavier, this is cult scoring gold. I have already reviewed the complete score separately, but its contribution to the film and to this track cannot be understated.
Some of the rockets getting launched make a lovely sshhwoooshhh as they sizzle away
Some of the rockets getting launched make a lovely sshhwoooshhh as they sizzle away. The stereo spread is not particularly wide, but it is vibrant. The effects are largely thick and heavy, but this still allows them more room to breathe than ever before.
Little details are still picked up. Shattering glass is crisp, but we can also discern the splintering of the window frames as well. The clipping of the perimeter fence is much neater. Knives slide against their scabbards when drawn. Ricochets are lent some acoustic bounce and ballistic whine. We can hear Robert Forster’s terrorist leader Abdul’s wrist creak as Chuck twists it. Moreover, the punches that Chuck delivers, which have always sounded chunky and moist even back in VHS days, now have a clearer sense of teeth-rattling impact. Nice.
Without a doubt, this is a fine transfer of a sound design that wasn’t really constructed with much in the way of subtlety. But the smaller elements scrub up well, and the movie feels sharp and energised. The score, of course, is where it is really all going on … and Arrow have done it proud.
The Delta Force Blu-ray Extras
As a massive fan of Chuck Norris, and this film in particular, it is great to finally have a release that actually tries to add some more bullets to the ammo chain. Not that the supplements Arrow have come up with are exhaustive – we could do with a commentary or two – but they show a degree of respect that only the cult British label seem to possess.
Typically, there is a reversible sleeve that boasts some remarkably grizzled new artwork on one side and, thankfully, the original poster art on the other. There is also a surprisingly informative booklet that details the era that the film arrived in and the influences that shaped it. Lots of cool pics of Chuck of too … if you like that sort of thing.
In Genre Hijackers, Mark Hartley talks about the explosive impact that Cannon Films had on the one-man-army cycle of 80s actioners, and the key input of uber-producers Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus and their unique, arguably ahead of their time, approach to crowd-pleasing. Amusing at times, and certainly passionate, Hartley wears his heart on his sleeve towards the end and makes some very strange comments of outright adulation for the long-gone film company.
We get to hear about writing for the mumbling hero in Chuck Norris Scribe: An Interview with James Bruner, who wrote the screenplays for numerous Cannon movies and especially The Delta Force and Invasion USA. Having cut his teeth on Chuck’s An Eye For An Eye, the affable Bruner discusses how his relationship with the star grew and how this led on to his tenure at Cannon. He also mentions how there was once a four-hour version of The Delta Force, which contained a lot more hostage material regarding how he had paid tribute to the role of the real life stewardess Uli Derickson who was aboard Flight 847, and was nominally portrayed in the film by Hanna Schygulla. God, I’d kill to see this version.
An interesting supplement is an interview with Commandant Christian Prouteau, founder of the French GIGN and the instructor to the first Delta Force. Beautifully titled May The Delta Force Be With You, this is a curious, yet fascinating beast. Firstly, Prouteau seems remarkably young to have participated in the hostage rescue at Djibouti and, most importantly, to have been requested by the US to advise the fledgling Delta Force under the command of SAS-trained Colonel Beckwith. But, despite this, his facts and opinions seems spot-on. Bizarrely, when quizzed on the film’s interpretation of what he, allegedly, helped to set up, he only mentions a couple of tactical bugbears and neglects to reflect upon the most overtly flamboyant and incorrect of procedures and strategies.
The package comes complete with the film’s Trailer.
Is The Delta Force Blu-ray Worth Buying
“I didn’t know you spoke Arabic.”
“If we don’t get out of here soon, we’re all going to be speaking it!”
Like Euan Lloyd’s intensely punchy and exciting SAS drama Who Dares Wins (also available on Blu from Arrow), The Delta Force is a deliberate filmic attempt to both redress the balance of terrorist threat and aggression and celebrate the might, skills and deadly efficiency of those trained to combat it with as much prejudice. The Golan-Globus production is understandably the more comic-book and jingoistic. Coming hot on the heels of Johnny Rambo, this was another Hollywood salvo endorsing Reagan’s stance as world sheriff.
The Delta Force is not just a guilty pleasure from the bodycount 80’s
Thunderously exciting and thoroughly entertaining, the film still packs a punch with its horrific treatment of the hostages – cunningly cast from familiar faces from a multitude of ripe disaster movies – and its depiction of cruel, hard-line extremism. It is also remarkable and commendable that Chuck Norris plays as part of a large ensemble. Yes, he kills most of the terrorists, himself, and proves he could probably have completed the mission all by himself, but he does so with that punishing style that has ensured he remains a cult icon at the forefront of grin-inducing mayhem.
Arrow’s release is terrific. The AV is excellent, and faithful. The extras are a delightful bonus for a film that people love to scoff, but secretly adore. If only they’d had access to the four-hour cut!!!!!
The Delta Force is not just a guilty pleasure from the bodycount 80’s. Half of it is played out as docu-drama and there are some important issues looked at with regards to fundamentalism, terrorism and the always tenuous link between the military and the politicians. And yet … it still has Chuck Norris pulling wheelies on a rocket-launching motorbike!
All THE SHADES OF AWESOME. ESPECIALLY GINGER!
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