Monday, March 15, 2010

THE OCTAGON (1980) - 3/5 stars

Release: 1980
Director: Eric Karson
Writer: Paul Aaron, Leigh Chapman
Cast: Chuck Norris, Karen Carlson, Lee Van Cleef, Carol Bagdasarian, Brian Libby, Richard Norton, AJ Hindle
Soundtrack: Dick Halligan
Claim to fame: Chuck Norris vs. a hell of a lot of ninjas
Rating: 3/5 stars

If you're the kind of person who thrives on bad movies, then "The Octagon" will be like a hearty feast for your cinema palette. 'Cause this movie comes from another dimension of bad. I honestly think it would at least…three viewings for me to piece the plot together.

For instance: what the hell is Chuck Norris' job in this movie? I mean, what does he do for a living? Is he a detective, a bodyguard, a mercenary?? People keep telling him that he should get back into fighting so I take it he's an ex-karate champ. But is being a karate champ (let alone an ex- one) an occupation?! I honestly don't know.


Chuck Norris - not a man you'd expect to find in the unemployment line

I'm used to Chuck's late 80's output, which was all about him stopping terrorist attacks and beating up Middle Eastern dictators ("Delta Force"), or putting a stop to the Red menace ("Invasion U.S.A."). Compared to those, I feel like I need a Masters degree (in ninjaology?) to unravel the plot of "The Octagon." For example, what part of the country does it even take place in? The screenplay is less of a structured story and more like various images and events scribbled down while the writer was in the midst of a fever dream.

Despite all that, there's not even much action until the very end of the movie. I've never seen a Chuck Norris movie so prone to...talking. Chuck talks to friends, talks to women, over dinner or drinks. This is an exposition-heavy movie. No doubt the filmmakers thought they were placing a priority on the big "CD" - Character Development. But no, it just means that a large chunk of this film is boring as hell.


"Let's talk about our problems, baby/Let's talk about feelingsss"

The rest of "The Octagon" similarly intrigues and befuddles me. Chuck's voice-over narration is fantastic. For one moment of our short lives, we are privy to Chuck's thoughts. It just so happens that they're awash in a ton of echo and reverb, rendering these cryptic phrases ("Where did it start start start…go back to the beginning beginning beginning") even more indecipherable. But I'm sure that's the way Chuck likes it.

Another thing I love about this movie is that Chuck plays a single man about town for once. He's got no family or steady girlfriend. So we get to see him wine and dine a few lucky gals and engage in some excessive flirtation. Let me tell you, the ladies like to lay it on thick when they're coming on to Chuck. I know what you're thinking: who can blame them?


Now that's what I call a "bear hug," oh yeah

What else? Lee Van Cleef plays a…um, who is his character, exactly? He seems like some kind of ex-mercenary/arms dealer who knows everything about everything that goes on in international espionage and terror (except where the Octagon is, naturally).


Lee Van Cleef is a great actor but even he doesn't know what he's doing here

AJ Hindle, who you might recognize from the 70's horror flick "Black Christmas," plays Chuck's friend. Which is all well and good but Hindle has this crippling inferiority complex where he doesn't feel as masculine or competent as Chuck.

The damsel-in-distress of the plot tells Hindle that trying to compare himself to Chuck is "like comparing apples and oranges," but the guy just won't listen. He ends up getting himself captured by the enemy due to his recklessness.


AJ Hindle suffers from an inferiority complex, which is common

among Chuck Norris' male co-stars ('cept for Lee Van Cleef, 'o course)

But that's actually a good thing, because it leads us to "The Octagon"'s insane finale. The last twenty minutes of this movie are Chuck Norris infiltrating a ninja compound and kicking the crap out of every last ninja who gets in his way. It's truly a thing of beauty.


All the fights and stunts were choreographed by Chuck and his brother, Aaron Norris. Sure, the choreography is pretty dated but this sequence wins out for the sheer number of bad guys that Chuck decimates. I have to imagine this is why anybody bought a ticket to "The Octagon" in 1980 - total ninja destruction - and the climax of the film does not disappoint, even if the rest of the movie is a talky, exposition-laden mess.


Bear in mind that my dad swears up and down that "The Octagon" is a great piece of filmmaking, even though he hasn't seen it in over twenty years. So strong is the lure of "Chuck Norris vs. a shitload of ninjas."


Holy shit, did Chuck Norris just slash a flaming ninja -

who he'd already killed - across the chest with a sword?!

"The Octagon" is the greatest movie ever!!!!!!!!!111

1 comment:

  1. I would see this movie for two reasons:
    1) Chuck's flowing locks
    2) To see Chuck actually attempt to flirt with the ladies.

    Oh, and the ninjas of course.

    I love this by the way: "it just means that a large chunk of this film is boring as hell."