I haven't been able to stop thinking about the upcoming presidential elections. No, not the Democrats. I've pretty much decided that whatever happens there happens. It's the Republican race that is keeping me up nights.
Even though The Crazy Mormon and The Mayor Of 9/11 were indeed thwarted at the Iowa caucus (Giuliani, you got served!), things aren't quite looking brighter. Instead, the Iowans up and picked Mike Huckabee.
How did he suddenly jump to the lead? Well, partly it is because he lets angels make his decisions for him, and it seems that the whole right-hand side of the fence (or at least in Iowa) has turned politics into an issue of who believes in angels the most.
But what was mostly responsible for pushing Huckabee over the top is so simple it's scary: he is Chuck Norris approved. Their comedic campaign ad proved to be a powerful tool (and a rare example of using good-natured irony in politics), and Norris was such an integral part of the campaign that he joined Huckabee on most of his public and television appearances. Heck, Norris even stood right behind Huckabee during the acceptance speech, quietly grinning as if he had single-handedly orchestrated the whole thing. As the ad says, "Chuck Norris doesn't endorse, he tells America how it's gonna be."
My analysis may sound glib and all, but think about this: Huckabee couldn't ride the religious pony quite as hard in New Hampshire. And that's where having Walker, Texas Ranger on his side may really come in handy as the campaign intensifies. There are an awful lot of hard-core Walker fans out there. Remember, this is a show that quietly sat in prime time without any fan fare for over eight years, never falling below nine million viewers. Over that time everyone from to Lee Majors to RuPaul to Sting appeared as a guest star, and in the end the show wasn't even canceled - Norris had to retire. That all adds up to a huge bubbling underbelly of folks who allowed Chuck Norris to heroically enter their homes once a week, and who will probably vote for anything he supports in a heartbeat (Obviously those fans don't live in New Hampshire - but beware, the south is next).
So, what if Huckabee somehow wins the nomination? He should appoint Chuck Norris as his running mate! Impossible, you say? Well, then, you haven't been to California lately. And doesn't Norris seem to be taking his iconic/ironic image a bit too seriously these days?
So, that's what I've been thinking about the past few days. Chilling. And it all works as a good lead in to my look at the movie The Delta Force.
Even though I disagree with his political views, I love watching Chuck Norris on screen. I'm not sure what it is. His lack of expression. His sudden bursts of violence. His beard. His simplistic views of right and wrong. Or maybe it's how it all works together to create that indefinable Chuck Norrisness that makes even Conan O'Brien giddy.
I recently started rewatching the movies that initially made him famous. Invasion U.S.A. is one of the most amusingly insane of the 80s Cold War nightmare films (second maybe to Red Dawn). An Eye For An Eye is like Dirty Harry lite with karate and a slumming Christopher Lee. And Lone Wolf McQuade is pretty much the prequel to Walker - only with David Carradine as the ultimate bad-ass and a slew of hilariously impossible moments.
But the most impressive of those early Norris films is 1986's The Delta Force.
What makes this one stand out is that rather than just settle on being another "go America!" action flick, The Delta Force goes that extra mile to become a pastiche of many much better films.
The movie begins with a short prologue introducing our title team, but then spends its first 20 minutes or so as a suspenseful 70s airplane disaster film. We are slowly introduced to the plane passengers and their back stories, and in classic Airport style, they are played by a wide range of character actors - Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, Lainie Kazan, Susan Strasberg, Shelley Winters, and George Kennedy (who tends to be your first phone call if you are going to set a film on an airplane).
Then, as the creepy terrorists take over, it adapts the tension of a political potboiler. More time than you would expect is spent delving into the background stories and motives of the Lebanese New World Revolutionary Organization - a fictional version of the real-life Hezbollah group the Organization for the Oppressed of the Earth. While the movie's reasoning is as ham fisted as one would expect, Israeli-born film director Menahem Golan (one half of the legendary production team who put Cannon Films on the cult cinema map) purposefully included some relevant antisemitic subtext that relates to the real political issues in the Middle East.
The politics get a bit more personal when the film briefly focuses on German flight attendant Ingrid, who remains calm during the hijacking, yet becomes quite distraught when the terrorists want to separate out the Jews (or "Israelis" as they call them). She emotionally breaks down and refuses to collect their passports, shouting "Don't you see? I'm German. I can't do what you ask me to do." And, well, then she goes ahead and does it anyway. This subplot is based on the real-life experience of Uli Derickson, whose story is a actually way more heroic than presented in this film (in 1988 she finally got her own TV movie). But legendary actress Hanna Schygulla still manages to give Ingrid some real gravity. A surprising member of the cast, she is best known as one of Fassbinder's favorite muses, and played the lead in one of my personal favorites, The Marriage of Maria Braun. (Here's a clip of her in action a few years after Delta Force, in the very 80s musical Miss Arizona)
Oh heck, did I mention that the entire film is based on an actual hijacking? But in reality there was no Delta Force sent in to save the hostages. At least not that time. But the Delta Force is real as well. The film was originally going to be based their experiences in Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue the Iran hostages in 1980. Charles Beckwith, leader of the real Delta Force, was even going to be an advisor on the film, but he quit in disgust when the producers wanted to change the ending so that the good guys won. In 1980, they didn't. And Reagan was thus elected!
Wait, you say, I thought The Delta Force was really just a cheesy action movie? Ah, that it is. But even then, there are two kinds of action movies happening here. For a while it is Lee Marvin who looks to be our hero. Even though he is clearly too old for the field, he is the leader of the elite anti-terrorist squad and shows a definite control over the situation (perhaps he was given command after the Dirty Dozen proved so successful). Marvin's tough guy act brings a welcome old-school Point Blank sass to the party, and even though it is sad to think of Delta Force as his last film, the actor actually has some very nice words for Menahem Golan.
But then Norris, that reliably taciturn Chuck Norris, brings it all crashing back down to action-cliche fantasyland as super-soldier Scott McCoy. In a truly over-the-top finale the movie suddenly becomes his and his alone (so much so that he is the only character to return for the completely ludicrous Delta Force 2). Watch now as Norris personally takes on terrorism (or rather, terrorism as represented by Robert Forster) with only his fists and a secret agent superbike. Then let a tear shaped like a bald eagle fall up out your eye.