There are three rules no Chuck Norris movie should ever break. No more than seven minutes of screen time should elapse between allocations of hirsute, freckly cans of mustached whoop-ass. Never cast Chuck Norris as a liberal college professor. And never, ever, under any circumstances, end a Chuck Norris movie with a 15-minute political debate void of slow-motion roundhouse kicks. Good Guys Wear Black flagrantly disregards all three.Norris’ second starring vehicle following 1977’s Breaker!Breaker!, Good Guys Wear Black features Chuck as an elite CIA commando turned anti-war political science professor. Norris shifted allegiances to the side of Nixon-bashing liberals following a failed mission by his Black Tiger special-ops platoon to rescue a group of POWs during the waning days of the Vietnam conflict, a mission sabotaged for the sake of political positioning.
When the shady politician (James Franciscus) responsible for that sabotage is nominated as Secretary of State several years later, Norris and the other five surviving Black Tigers end up on a hit list intended to silence them before the senate’s confirmation hearings.
And thus you have the first of many ill-conceived aspects of Good Guys Wear Black – no Chuck Norris vehicle should ever require two entire paragraphs of synopsis to explain the plot. Filmmakers behind later Norris flicks eventually figured this out, following the “Chuck avenges dead partner” or “Chuck takes on an entire commie nation” archetypes for the remainder of the former karate champion’s brief tenure as a viable box office force.
The convoluted political conspiracies of Good Guys Wear Black might be forgivable if they were tempered with roundhouse kicks. But outside of a fairly classic slow-motion leaping lunge by Norris through the windshield of a charging car, the flick is virtually void of action.
There are a few Chuck beatdowns dished out to assorted assassins, but the first major fight sequences doesn’t come until nearly an hour into the film. That initial hour is spent rehashing the same pattern – Chuck arrives to warn former Black Tiger pal about the threat on his life. Said former pal is promptly gunned down by a sniper. Chuck grits his teeth, bangs Senate investigator Anne Archer by a fireplace, and then repeats.
This monotonous cycle is finally broken not by a savage unleashing of kung-fu rage, but by Chuck sharing his feelings on the finer points of American diplomacy for the better part of the film’s final 15 minutes while the viewer prays for ninjas to break through the windows and hurl throwing stars. Those ninjas never show up, though you do get a soliloquy on political corruption from the star of Silent Rage and Forced Vengeance.
The only real point of interest (outside of laughing at the movie logic that allows college professor Norris to be a Porsche test car driver on the side) is the politics behind Good Guys Wear Black.
Released in 1978, the film marks one of the last bastions of post-Vietnam disillusionment in mainstream action fare before Hollywood began shifting its product to the gung-ho right wing conservatism of Reagan-era America.There’s just something amusing about one of Norris’ Black Tiger compatriots delivering the line “Whatever happened to the good old days, when Randolph Scott and John Wayne were happy to have their asses blown off for the good old US of A,” considering Norris would shortly thereafter help usher in the return of that sort of jingoistic patriotism with films such as Invasion USA and Missing in Action.