Directed by Andrew Davis
Produced by Raymond Wagner
Written by Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack and Mike Gray
Cinematography by Frank Tidy
Edited by Christopher Holmes/Peter Parasheles/Russ Kingston
Music by David Michael Frank
Today Chuck Norris is best known as the star of the CBS television series “Walker, Texas Ranger” which ran from 1993 to 2001 and the subject of the Internet phenomenon known as “Chuck Norris Facts.” Most people know he had a very successful career as an action star during the 1980’s but when asked to mention what movies they’re familiar with, I’m betting most will cite the “Missing In Action” movies or “Invasion U.S.A.” since those are the ones that seem to get the most airplay on cable/satellite movie channels. And that’s really a daggone shame as Chuck Norris starred in some really superior action movies during that period.
“Good Guys Wear Black” has a government conspiracy tied to the Vietnam war and “Expendables 2” has a nice call-back to that movie in that Chuck Norris’ character in both movies has the same name. “The Octagon” has a strong plot about private citizens taking it upon themselves to do something about terrorism and co-stars Lee Van Cleef. “The Delta Force” co-stars Lee Marvin and is based on the real life U.S. Army Delta Force. “Silent Rage” is a sci-fi slasher flick and my all-time favorite Chuck Norris movie, “Lone Wolf McQuade” is a way more badass version of his later Cordell Walker character.
The point I guess I’m trying to make here is that while Chuck Norris can and has been dismissed as an action hero who gets through his movies with his beard and roundhouse kicks, that’s simply not true. Chuck Norris has made a number of movies that are significantly several levels above the standard action movie and the best example of this and undoubtedly the best movie he’s ever made is CODE OF SILENCE. While “Lone Wolf McQuade” remains my favorite; in terms of acting, writing and directing, CODE OF SILENCE is the better movie. Chuck Norris does bust some martial arts moves and even throws his trademark roundhouse kick but that’s only in one major fight scene. CODE OF SILENCE is a straight-up urban cop thriller with good, solid performances and a great story.
Sgt. Eddie Cusack (Chuck Norris) is a Chicago narcotics cop who speaks softly but when he does, everybody listens. He’s a straight arrow, incorruptible hardass but his men respect him. He and his squad have spent a month setting up a big drug bust in order to take down Victor Camacho (Ron Henriquez) of the notorious Comacho family who run the cocaine trade in the city. Cusack’s big bust is ruined by Tony Luna (Mike Genovese) of the Scalese family. Luna raids the meet and greet exchange, killing everybody involved and taking the coke and the money. Cusack’s partner Dorato (Dennis Farina) is shot and there’s a fatality but one that has nothing to do with the bust. A member of Cusack’s squad, the alcoholic, burnt-out Cragie (Ralph Foody) accidentally shoots and kills a teenager who simply steps out of his apartment into the hall to see what all the yelling is about. Cragie plants his throwaway piece on the kid and his partner Kopelas (Joseph Guzaldo) backs him up.
Now here’s where the situation really gets serious. Victor survives the raid and along with his psychotic older brother Luis (Henry Silva) declares war on the Scaleses. Luna decides to leave town as the Camachos go on a rampage, brutally wiping out the Scaleses. They also try to kidnap Luna’s daughter Diana (Molly Hagen) to bring her father out of hiding. Cusack rescues her and tries to keep her alive and safe while also trying to stop the vicious gang war and persuading Kopelas to do the right thing and stop lying for Cragie.
As you can guess from my plot summary, there’s an awful lot of story we’ve got going on here but CODE OF SILENCE is never confusing or gets lost. The three major plots interweave seamlessly with no problem at all. If the movie had just been about the gang war, it would have just been an average movie. But the Cragie subplot, which deals with the “code of silence” police officers have to cover and protect each other is examined here in far greater depth than you would expect from your typical Chuck Norris kick-and-punch flick.
I attribute a lot of how good CODE OF SILENCE is to the director, Andrew Davis who knows how to make a thriller and has made a lot of good ones set in Chicago where he was born and grew up. He directed “Above The Law” which is for my money still Steven Seagal’s best movie, “The Package” with Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones, “Under Siege” and “The Fugitive.” So he knows how to make this type of movie sing and swing.
I give Chuck Norris a lot of credit for not playing Cusack as an invincible superman. There’s a scene where Cusack goes into a pool hall full of bad guys and gets into a brawl with them. Even though Cusack gets in some good shots what happens is what we know happens in that type of situation: Cusack gets his ass whooped. Norris doesn’t try to out act any of the more experienced actors he’s working with such as the terrific Dennis Farina, Henry Silva, Bert Remsen or Ralph Foody. Most of the time he’s simply reacting to what they’re saying or doing and it works for him.
Some people criticize the movie because of the robot Cusack uses to help him rescue Diana and take down the Camachos in the movie’s final shootout and back in 1985 The Prowler robot might have seemed like science fiction but this is a rare case where reality has caught up and since now we do have police departments using robots like The Prowler it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
And CODE OF SILENCE has what is one of the funniest scenes in movie history when two bumbling hoods try to stick up a bar where all the customers are cops as well as what has to be the biggest car explosion I’ve ever seen in a movie.
So should you see CODE OF SILENCE? Absolutely. It holds up surprisingly well after all this time with its performances, production values, terrific action sequences and story. If you’ve never seen a Chuck Norris movie, watch CODE OF SILENCE. If you have seen other Chuck Norris movies and didn’t like them, watch CODE OF SILENCE. This one is worth your time, trust me.