The Delta Force Review
Chris McEneany goes 'Gun-ho' over Chuck Norris' 80's body count actioner
Movies reviewTool-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.
America hadn't yet suffered the horror of terrorism, but if its movies were anything to go by, it was telling the world that it was ready, willing and more than able to deal with it if it came knocking on the White House door. The film, loosely inspired by the actual hijacking of a TWA airliner only a year before - footage of Bo Svenson's American captain leaning out of the cockpit to speak to the press with a gun pressed to his head was a perfect recreation of the real event - detailed the horrific capture of a western plane by Middle Eastern gunmen led by a darkened Robert (Alligator) Forster, the segregation of the passengers into various bolt-holes in Tehran and the explosive Delta Force rescue mission led by Chuck Norris's Maj. Scott McCoy and Lee Marvin's Col. Nick Alexander. In reality, this elite fighting force had not yet proved themselves on the world canvas, their one major exploit having ended in abject failure and carnage-heavy disaster when a wildly over-complicated and ambitious airborne mission to snatch-and-grab hostages from the captured US Embassy in Tehran resulted in death and humiliation for the US military. But with Chuck Norris riding high as a dependable hero-for-hire who had already righted the wrongs of the Vietnam War, a la Johnny Rambo, with his Missing In Action outings, now seemed the time to inform those harbouring a grudge against America that Uncle Sam was not open to intimidation ... or even any half-assed negotiation, for that matter.
The film ran afoul of critics who just saw racial stereotypes and unjustifiably gung-ho rapid reaction, but action-lovers adored its hokey idealism and high-calibre lunacy. And, despite an amazingly strong cast that also included Martin Balsam, Hanna Schygulla, Shelley Winters, Susan Strasbourg, Robert Vaughn and B-movie icon Steve (The Exterminator) James, and some wacky motorbike and dune-buggy stuntage, it is surely down to Silvestri's relentlessly addictive music that the film became such a screwball cult favourite.
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.
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.
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!