Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Film Review: HERO AND THE TERROR (1988, William Tannen)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Chuck Norris, Steve James (VIGILANTE, THE EXTERMINATOR), Jack O'Halloran (FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, SUPERMAN II), Brynn Thayer (KANSAS, BIG SHOTS), Billy Drago (MYSTERIOUS SKIN, DELTA FORCE 2). Produced by Golan and Globus. Music by David Michael Frank (EXTREME JUSTICE, ABOVE THE LAW). Written by Dennis Shryack (FLASHPOINT, FIFTY/FIFTY, RENT-A-COP, CODE OF SILENCE, TURNER & HOOCH).
Tag-line: "Heroes hit hardest."
Best one-liner: Norris pretends to be a short order cook in order to catch criminals. Criminal: "These are the worst eggs I've ever had, man!" Norris: "Wait till you try the toast."

"I'm gonna break you like a bad habit, NUMBNUTS!"

Allow me to paint an extremely vivid picture for you. Chuck Norris. Doin' the ole barbell bench press. Sweaty, half-naked, and surrounded by a phalanx of his hetero buddies. They're spotting him, reciting tender words of encouragement. They're words like- "SHOW ME! SHOW ME! TREAT HER LIKE A LADY!!! COME ON! TREAT THAT LADY NICE!!! COME ON! COME ON! JAM IT UP! JAM IT UP!!!"

Just a couple of regular guys helpin' their buddy get his workout on. Well, before we say "God bless Golan & Globus," I have to tell you that this is probably the best scene in the movie. Yeah, HERO AND THE TERROR is probably one of the weaker Norris/Cannon collaborations, but still it's worth a watch if you think a watered-down version of SILENT RAGE sounds like a good idea, which- let's face it- is. Helmed by William Tannen (director of the highly underrated conspiracy flick FLASHPOINT), and co-starring Steve James (who reaches deep down to play a Mozart-loving Steve James) and Billy Drago (who does quite a bit with the role of 'frank, sincere insane asylum doctor'),

this thing should have been a lot better than it is. The 'Norris and pregnant girlfriend talk about their relationship' to 'Norris kicks people in the face' ratio is decidedly skewed, and in the wrong direction. There's a whollle lotta talk about babies and moving in and the intricacies of pregnant lady + Norris sex life, which kinda makes me a little ill.

Gotta love this recurring generic scene: a couple spends their first night in the new apartment- they don't unpack anything, and they get Chinese takeout- using the cardboard boxes as furniture.

Then, there's the villain of the piece, 'The Terror,' played by SUPERMAN II's Jack O'Halloran.

O'Halloran is not just some big lug- he's an exceptionally solid actor capable of true poignancy- look at his role as Moose Malloy in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. But here, he's totally wasted- just a big guy making scary faces with his teeth. At least it ends on a zany Norris freeze frame (with his arm around a priest!).

The Father definitely looks a little unnerved.

Then we got an end credits duet called "Two Can Be One" which is a total "Up Where We Belong" rip-off. I love it. Three stars.

-Sean Gill

Weird music related side note: The David Michael Frank score is at times excellent and very Philip Glass-ian. In fact, as I listened further, it sounded very Philip Glass-ian, with certain selections sounding almost exactly the same as excerpts from Glass' HEROES Symphony and his score from Scorsese's KUNDUN. (A lot of people like to joke that all Glass sounds the same, but, as someone who's listened to a shitload of Glass in my time, I can differentiate the phases within his work- a task complicated by his propensity for quoting himself, but a doable task, nonetheless). However, this movie was made in 1988, and those two Glass pieces I've named are from 1996 and 1997, respectively. So I did a little research, and found that both Frank and Glass came from Baltimore, and both attended the Peabody Conservatory of Music, possibly at the same time. The wheels are turning, but I have no idea what they're telling me.

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