The following opinion might cause the internet to gain sentience and destroy us on the spot, but it’s not easy finding a truly great Chuck Norris movie. Yes, he did an amazing job facing off against Bruce Lee in The Way Of The Dragon and became the internet’s paragon of toughness, but what are his best movies? Have you seen the dull A Force Of One, The Octagon or later efforts like Hellbound and The Cutter? They’re not exactly inspiring, though his brief appearances in The Expendables 2 was pretty damn entertaining.
Admittedly inexperienced in the realm of Norris’ films, we here at Explosions Are Rad figured it would be a good idea to go back and give his movies a watch starting with 1978’s Good Guys Wear Black. Norris plays John T. Booker, the leader of a CIA task force known as the Black Tigers during the Vietnam War. As part of the peace treaty signed between the States and Vietnam to end the war, Senator Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus) had to set up the Black Tigers, sending them into what should have been a deathtrap. Booker, being the best there is at what he does, though got out of there with some of his fellow Tigers. Five years later, someone’s not only killing off the Tigers and Booker finds himself in the company of an inquisitive woman named Margaret (Anne Archer) who seems to know an awful lot about what’s going on.
There are a variety of problems with the film, from a general lack of visual quality — the scenes of the Tigers in the village looks like it was filmed on stock that itself survived a war — to molasses-slow fight scenes, but one of the movie’s larger stumbling points is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. There’s a war movie in there, there’s a revenge story, there’s something of a romance, there’s the odd combination of Booker being both a professor and a race car driver (which sounds like something a kid would make up while playing with several different action figures, all from different lines). There’s even a James Bond travel/spy element. It’s just too much, not that these elements can’t be brought together, but it’s just not well synthesized in this case.
The biggest problem with Good Guys Where Black, though, is that it’s just plain ol’ boring. The plot’s interesting enough, though a bit overcomplicated, but when you add that onto the previously mentioned slow fight scenes, a few glaring logic problems (why doesn’t he look for the guy who shoots the Black Tiger right in front of him?!) and a performance from Norris that’s a bit flat (though he definitely picks it up in the last 15-20 minutes or so), you’re not dealing with a recipe for success. In fact, this is the coolest scene in the movie:
From this clip alone you might think to yourself, “THIS guy trained with Bruce Lee? No way.”
We don’t want to be completely negative, so here’s a few interesting side facts. Norris’ character in Expendables 2 is named Booker which you can either take as a reference to this film or the continuation of the character. Either way, it’s pretty cool. Also, this film’s director Ted Post might not have hit a homer with Good Guys Wear Black, but he did helm four episodes of The Twilight Zone as well as Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force. Oh, and don’t worry, we’re working our way towards mid-80s period of movies like The Delta Force, Lone Wolf McQuade, Invasion U.S.A., Missing In Action and the like. Here’s hoping we have better luck there!