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Delta Force Commando
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by Jack Sommersby

"Watch Chuck Norris's 'Delta Force' Instead"
1 stars

This is one of those little-known titles that pops up on DVD with three more films in its package. They're all non-letterboxed with video quality that's quite lacking. Then again, for $10 for four films that were lucky they managed to stick to the celluloid in the first place, who's to argue?

Sometimes a film just can't compensate for a truly dreadful lead actor, no matter how trashy and forgettable the film itself is -- rock-bottom acting, when done abysmally enough, can out-stink even the rankest of screenplays and the most inept jobs of directing. Which is undeniably the case with one Mark Gregory in the low-budget, ultra-low-octane action-adventure Delta Force Commando. He plays Brett Clark, a former standout Delta Force soldier who, because of his pregnant wife, has opted out of dangerous duty and taken a desk job at a U.S. base in Puerto Rico. She knows he's unhappy and actually encourages him to return to his previous field, but he unselfishly declines. This being Movieland, though, his nondescript existence is thrown all to hell when terrorists infiltrate the base and steal a nuclear device, and on the way out -- for reasons not made even remotely clear -- they take a brief detour to the living quarters to kill Clark but wind up doing in his wife instead. Understandably, he's more than a wee bit peeved and doggedly determined to enact revenge against the villains who've taken up refuge on the Nicaragua border; and because someone from the State Department has put a temporary hold on a Delta Force operation to track and take them down, Clark is understandably outraged. This is normally the kind of role any actor would sink his teeth into with relish given the variety of emotions necessary to give the character the proper dramatic dimensions, but Gregory is ghastly. True, he's got a healthy head of hair and a fairly impressive body; even truer, he hasn't so much as a speck of charisma and is inexpressive to the nth degree whether holding his dead wife's body or seething at his superiors. Frustrated with all the inaction, Clark hijacks a fighter jet along with its pilot, Captain Samuel Beck, who takes him to Nicaragua and reluctantly joins him in his fight. This is not only good for the character but for the audience, too, because Beck is played by the fabulous Fred Williamson, who has an alertness and vividness that practically jumps off the screen. A colorful actor with a good many blaxpoitation pictures to his credit (the best being Larry Cohen's 1973 Black Caesar where he deftly played a self-made, ruthless gangster), Williamson is effortlessly commanding and simply incapable of being boring; and you can see his attempts at getting a lively rapport with Gregory going but all to no avail. (Actually, they appeared together before in the dandy post-apocalyptic action flick 1990: The Bronx Warriors where Gregory's character name was, fittingly enough, Trash.)

Still, however damaging the substandard Gregory is to the proceedings, the movie itself is no great shakes, either. The villains are an uninteresting lot with an uninteresting political agenda: harboring a grudge against the United States for arming the Contras, they're out to strike a blow against imperialism, which is verbally relayed to us from a phone booth with the McDonald's golden arches in the background. (Subtle!) The pacing belches forth in tiresome fits and starts without much of a through-line giving the scene transitions any zip, so this noxious ninety-minute cinematic endeavor feels about twenty minutes longer. There's nothing resembling a visual design at work; the subpar cinematography (that is, if there was a cinematographer on the set) has all the pizzazz of an industrial-training video. (And let's not forget that a premiere cameraman by the likes of Jack Cardiff scrumptiously shot something of the low-acumen variety of this genre with Rambo: First Blood Part 2.) The dialogue is vicious-bad, whether it's a horny soldier telling a hooker to "salute the flagpole" as he unzips or Beck unfathomably replying "We all make mistakes, pal," when Clark tells him he just saved his life. (What!?). Added to which, the action sequences, which should be the movie's strong point, are flat-out incompetent and just downright lame. A portion of this can be blamed on the miniscule budget (when there's an aerial dogfight with Beck and two enemy fighters, we can forgive the lack of proper covering footage), but most of it's attributable to dour debuting-director Pierluigi Ciriaci, whose technical and imaginative levels are decidedly lacking. The staging is scattershot, resulting in skewed spatial logistics where a lot of the time we have trouble keeping track of where the opposing shooters are in relation to one another; and suspension-of-disbelief considerably strained in invidious incidents like Beck jumping out a helicopter and dropping at least a hundred feet to the bottom of a mountain with nary a sprained angle. Oh, there's a pretty neat slingshot device using metal balls that knocks one unconscious, but far too much of the time Ciriaci has our heroes mowing down dozens of enemies Playstation 2-style while standing right out in the open, which comes in handy, I guess, being that the enemy couldn't even hit the broad side of a barn. And why, pray tell, can a helicopter's missiles gouge through luggage on a moving bus's roof yet can't penetrate through the roof itself? Now, if a decent amount of liveliness had been sprinkled throughout, there wouldn't be all this downtime to ponder such improbabilities, but, like Gregory, the overall whole is a sodden stiff.

Believe it or not, there's actually a sequel to this. I'd give it a look-see, maybe, but I'm not that glutton for probable punishment!

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originally posted: 09/18/10 07:04:28
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9/22/10 Ronald Holst Just another war adventure Knock off 1 stars
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  01-Jan-1987 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jan-2004



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