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 racecar-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 slum it for a cheap little flick. But nostalgia often goes only so far, soon leaving a bad taste in one's mouth after they've suffered through such a horrible film. Such is the case with most of Chuck Norris' filmography.
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. Their meeting is particularly enthralling because it's another prime example of how shitty most action films are and it makes one appreciate the brief, innovative career of Lee more than ever. Norris is and has always been simply adequate as an actor; he stands around, delivers his lines with sufficient emotion and then beats up people when necessary. Just as Charles Bronson has transformed his public image into that of a renegade killer, Chuck Norris has slowly become the mediocre personality which he's displayed throughout his drawn-out career. From the wide brim hat of the sheriff in Silent Rage to the wide brim hat of Walker, Texas Ranger, Norris has allowed himself to mutate into a poster boy for the sick and demeaning side of the entertainment industry and has gradually become the ultimate corporate lackey, always willing to jump on the latest bandwagon or mutilate his own image as the newest fad requires. For every hole that people like Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson punch into the establishment, Norris seems to be always right behind them with brick and mortar, ready and willing to seal the void back up. While Good Guys Wear Black is one of Norris' early disgaces, the cliches are already firmly in place: the Vietnam setting, the evil government officials, the pointless scenes that go nowhere and the stiff 2-dimensional villains who are easily put out of business by some of that signature Norris Karate. 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, and appropriately so; this impossible shot is an apt representation of the dated and phony movie hiding behind it
Quality of the content aside, the new HBO Video has produced another excellent dvd release. The anamorphically-enhanced image features sparkling colors and true blacks, allowing one to study in detail all the poor composition and sophmoric antics of Norris the "action hero". The Dolby Digital mono track is clear and well-represented, allowing one to get all those poorly-looped lines you might miss during a fuzzy television broadcast or ancient VHS tape. The only extras are a few cast and crew bios.
Something as bland and lifeless as Good Guys.. might be just the thing for your senile grandmother or down's syndrome uncle. God knows that the moviegoers of the late 70's weren't much brighter when they elevatad Norris the dope and his dopey movies into the action picture hall of fame. Still, this dvd is available online for around $10 and some large retail chains are offering it for $6. At those prices, this might be perfect for your kid's secret Santa party at the elementary school. At least the children will have enough of a limited IQ needed to enjoy such low-budget mayhem.
©2002 John Hand. All rights Reserved.