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Review: Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

96 min. / Directed by Ted Post / HBO Video  DVD

Sometime during the end of the Vietnam, a council is set up in Paris to decide the fate of a group of American POWs. Slimy American politician Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus) buys just enough time for a special forces group featuring John T. Booker (Chuck Norris) to infiltrate the POW camp and get our guys out. Unfortunately the plan goes haywire and the special forces are ambushed when they get to the camp. Only Norris and a few others make it out of the assault.

Jump to years later, Booker is now a race car-driving history teacher who gives boring lectures about the political nature of the Vietnam War. Sitting in on one of his lectures is a bright female reporter (Anne Archer) who starts asking some very specific questions about the botched rescue mission. It seems that someone is slowly killing all the surviving members of the special forces team. After a short night of pg-rated non-explicit sex, Norris teams up with the girl and races around the country in an attempt to worn his old war buddies, but by the time he get to most of them he’s too late has to watch them getting “terminated.” Norris eventually flies out to Washington to take on the big guys behind all this mischief and finally win one for all boys lost in ‘Nam.

Directed by the always-reliable Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), Good Guys Wear Black is essentially a nice nostalgia trip to the action movie of the seventies, where all you needed for success were a few Martial Arts stars, some hot cars (there’s tons of them in here) and some respectable character actors willing to hop into your cheap little flick.

It’s fascinating to watch Bruce Lee’s star pupil Norris share screen time with Franciscus, who had previously worked with Lee on an episode of his television series Longstreet. The main set-piece of the film is a strange slow-motion shot where Chuck kicks in the windshield of a speeding car, murdering the driver instantly. So integral was this bit that it was emblazoned on the movie poster as the tiny image inside Chuck’s mirrored sunglasses.

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