By Marc S. Sanders
I must admit I have not watched many Chuck Norris movies. Just a handful here or there like The Delta Force, but on my radar to catch was always the cop thriller from 1985, Code Of Silence. I always intended to watch it someday as the film is highly endorsed by Siskel & Ebert. As well, it’s directed by Andrew Davis, the skilled filmmaker who would go on to direct The Fugitive and Under Siege.
Code Of Silence works in two ways; two stories that live up to the title. Norris is a Chicago cop named Eddie Cusack who heads a squad of under covers within the city. The film opens with what is supposed to be a well-planned drug bust that goes wrong when the one mob faction is overrun by another mob. Cusack’s informant as well as others turn up dead just before his band were to move in with arrests. Nearby, two of Cusack’s men come upon a young, unarmed man. The rookie officer witnesses the elder officer accidentally shoot the kid, and afterwards he plants a pistol in his hand to make it look like self-defense.
Now Cusack has to contend with a mob war in the streets where a boss’ daughter (Molly Kagan) is the only survivor of an attack and he must protect her. While at the same time he has to deal with his squad turning on him because he knows what the elder cop really did. The code of silence motif is expected to be honored in both camps. Personal vendettas and violations of police policy need to remain quieted.
The film belongs to Norris exclusively. Andrew Davis allows some of the action star’s kickboxing skills to work their way into the movie, and it all becomes a sidestep dance routine really. It always amuses me in these action pictures where the star will take on twenty guys at once yet he fights one or only two of them at a time. The other eighteen or nineteen thugs wait their turn. Why not just have all of them tackle Norris all together? No. Then we wouldn’t get his outstretched 360-degree roundhouse kicks in the air.
There’s also an unnecessary cop robot contraption that Norris pilots for the climactic action packed ending. This thing looks a rejected auditioner for the role of Johnny 5 in Short Circuit. The robot must have been too tall for the part and rather clunky. It has no relevance to either storyline and was obviously inserted for fun, campy violence of fireballs and explosions in the necessary old, abandoned warehouse where all of these actioners have to take place.
Fortunately, Code Of Silence has good story material to work with, and some thrilling stunt work including Chuck Norris pursuing a bad guy on top of a moving elevated train that makes its way with an eventual leap into the river. From what I could tell, that was really Mr. Norris himself in that whole scene. Good footage here.
Andrew Davis relies on what would become regular side characters that appear in many of his other films including Ron Dean and Joseph Kosala. They always make for good cop antagonists within the Chicago settings of his films. Norris is also good in a quiet Clint Eastwood kind of manner as he holds his own beliefs against the rest of his department who support the elder cop.
I like the conflicts that happen on both sides of the law in Code Of Silence. Sure, it’s got some silliness to it with the kickboxing and the gigantic, cop robot that shamelessly waddles along, but the two stories hold up by keeping me engaged of their outcomes.
Code Of Silence is a pretty effective thriller.