The Delta Force Blu-ray ReviewJune 24, 2012
The Delta Force is one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen, and yet for some reason it holds some bizarre charm that comes frighteningly-close to making me love it.
It's jingoistic redneck fodder - the kind of movie that your drunken uncle who equates "brown skin" with "That there fella hates him some America!" watches over and over for twelve consecutive hours on Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, and Veteran's Day.
And yet the story is (to some degree) well-constructed, the characters are more than the one-dimensional cardboard cutouts you'd expect from such schlock, and the performances and direction are strong enough to keep you engaged for the majority of the movie's runtime.
The movie opens in Tehran, 1980. Captain McCoy (Chuck Norris) and his team - the Delta Force, a special ops unit of the United States military - are ambushed when one of their helicopters is bombed. McCoy races back to rescue an injured comrade from the burning wreckage, despite warnings from his commanding officer, Colonel Alexander (Lee Marvin, arguably one of the ten manliest men to ever live - seriously, I think the guy bleeds testosterone; I don't even think that's possible).
In the end, McCoy decides that this mission will be his last. Five years later, he's drawn out of retirement when Middle Eastern extremists hijack a plane and force it to reroute to Beirut. McCoy (now a major) leads his team on a daring rescue mission into the heart of enemy territory to pull off an impossible mission that only the Delta Force is suited for.
It's weird to think of it now, but movies like this were a dime a dozen during the early 80s. The real-life Iran hostage crisis was still fresh in the minds of the public, tensions were brewing with Iraq, and the Cold War was still almost a decade away from reaching its nadir. In other words, moviegoers were all, "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Who better to be the poster boy for a movie like that than Chuck Norris?
To be frank, I'm really surprised that this movie didn't become required viewing for all able-bodied American males during the immediate aftermath of 9-11.
Having said all of that, though, this movie is pretty engaging. Norris's face is the one on the cover of the Blu-ray, but the construction of the movie's story is such that we're always reminded that the key to our heroes' success is the well-being of the hostages; Norris and his red-blooded American heroics are really just a means to that end.
Even the performances are fairly strong. Marvin is awesome strictly by his nature, but the supporting performances from Shelly Winters and George Kennedy (the man who made an entire career out of being on the wrong plane at the wrong time) a pretty good as well.
Then there's Chuck Norris. I'm willing to go on record right this second as saying that there's a pile of firewood in my neighbor's backyard that could out-act Chuck Norris. But in this film, his character isn't necessarily the star. The star of the movie is really the plight of the hostages and the heroes' resolve to rescue them.
Norris is actually in the movie pretty sparingly, and the path of the movie more or less zigs and zags around Norris's embarrassing shortcomings as an actor. If you put him in his own show where he was the star for, say, ten years then you'd have a real disaster on your hands.
At most, you'd have fodder for late-night comedy. Who would put that on the air?
For all of the good things about The Delta Force, though, there's more than a fair share of things to complain about.
About mid-way through the movie, the story seems to become more about international outcry and the press's reaction to the hostage crisis. In some movies, this might seem apropos, but this movie's entire first act and most of its second is focused on the people; not what their governments or the press think about what's going down.
Another thing is a rash of completely baffling and - to be perfectly honest - stupid behavior. They're the movie mistakes that you just can't help but giggle about for hours after the movie is over. For example, during Norris's daring rescue of his buddy in the opening scene, he takes a barrel clearly labeled "Danger: Extremely Flammable." Norris takes the barrel and lays it on top of an open flame.
Now, normally I'd chalk that up to, "Well, that must've been the best take." Or I'd attribute it to just being an honest mistake. However (and I rewound this part three times just to be sure), Norris actually gives the label on the barrel a half-second glance before moving it. It's either sloppy directing or poor editing, but either way it's bad.
Also, as invested as we get in the hostages and the nature of the crisis itself, the third act of this movie just dissolves completely into mindless and borderline-impossible stunt acting. I'm talking the kind of stunts from Roger Moore Bond movies that made you roll your eyes - except here you don't smile and say, "Oh, that wacky Roger Moore." You just facepalm yourself.
In the end, though, the movie's goods outweigh its evils, but just by a hair. Just turn your brain off during the last hour or so.
Twentieth Century Fox presents The Delta Force on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that's reasonably free of grain or noise. As a matter of fact, it looks a lot better than I expected it to. Blacks are pretty well-defined and colors are sharp and vibrant. The transfer's been cleaned up quite a bit, but not so much that you couldn't immediately identify it as an '80s flick (and I mean that as a compliment). Bottom line? Chuck Norris's beard has never looked better - yup. I went there.
As for the sound, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack packs a lot of punch. Every explosion is milked for all of its glory, and even the ambient noise is served well. There's a scene aboard a naval vessel docked in Israel where the off-screen sounds of foghorns (at a naval base? Ah, whatever...) bring the atmosphere to life.
Beyond the Feature
Beyond the feature, there's... well, there's not anything. Honestly, I wasn't expecting the folks at Fox to dig really deep in the archives for some The Delta Force supplemental goodness, but at the very least a retrospective documentary might've been nice.
The Delta Force is not great or groundbreaking cinema, nor does it aspire to be. It is intended reaction from an audience is, "Boy, Jethro, America sure kicks ass, don't it?!" And, to that end, it succeeds.
It wears its heart on its sleeve, and you've gotta respect that.
Plus, you're gonna find yourself humming Alan Silvestri's theme for hours on end after you watch it.
- Jason Jarman
The Delta Force Blu-ray is available exclusively at Walmart for under eight bucks. Go get it (June 5, 2012 release date).
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