Friday, May 4, 2018

The Octagon (1980)

Aw shit yeah octagons.

They tell us to stop our cars.  They are used all over the place for shady fighting tournaments.  They have eight, count 'em EIGHT, sides.  You know why octagons are so fuckin' badass?

Because they ain't no squares, that's why.

Then there's Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris does not wear a condom - because there is no protection from Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris has counted to infinity - twice.  They once made Chuck Norris brand toilet paper, but he wouldn't take shit from anybody.  The chief export of Chuck Norris is PAIN.

Put Chuck Norris and an octagon together in one movie and, holy fuck, do you have something that will melt brains while causing your head to explode from sheer awesomeness.

And that's what we have for this week - The Octagon!  After last month's constant reminder that doing this blog is a curse and not a cure for what ails me, I decided I needed some action.  Action that I can only get from Chuck fuckin' Norris.

By the way - did you know that Chuck Norris once time traveled to stop the JFK assassination?  Yeah, he got there, leaped in front of Oswald's bullets and deflected them with his beard.  From the sheer awesomeness of it all, JFK's head exploded.

The Octagon comes from a time before Chuck Norris became a primary force for Cannon Films - and a beard aficionado.  It's often considered a favorite of martial arts movie fans.  It helped to usher in the 80s ninja/kung fu/action craze that would last for at least a couple decades - with several of those movies finding life as easy to produce entertainment to release direct to video and feed the hunger of action fans all over this big ol' dumb country of ours.

So what's it all about?  Well, Chuck Norris is martial artist action man Scott James (a name I will not refer to anymore in this article because he is, and always shall be, Chuck Norris) who has to conquer some demons of his past and defeat a plan of ninjas to create a worldwide training camp for fuckin' terrorists called THE OCTAGON!

Fuck yeah, people!  That description gives me a 'Murica boner!  So let's stop talking about this movie and let's dive deep into this sweet sweet action flick!


First and foremost, I cannot stress enough that this is not a Cannon Film.  It was made by American Cinema Productions.  However, like Cannon Films, American Cinema Productions knows how to start their fucking movies...  With what Chuck Norris victims see after he's arrived to crush heads and kick faces:
The blood-soaked visage of the man who brought their doom!
A truckload of unseemly characters are dumped off and told to walk a mile or so up the road.  As they do, ninjas in trees watch them.  They arrive in a camp that looks like something out of Vietnam in a Rambo movie or something, but it is a training facility for fuckin' no good terrorists!

Elsewhere, a duo posing as two ladies who have lost control of their baby carriage that bumps into a fancy car carrying some business guy turn out to be machine-gun wielding assassins!  They light up the business guy and his driver in a hailstorm of bullets!

One of the killers is brought down while the other escapes.

Cut to Chuck Norris watching some sort of fancy event thing.  He makes eyes with the girl who was doing some sort of performance and she becomes instantly pregnant.  And then they go on a date - where she instantly wants to fuck his brains out.  It turns out that she is a dancer and caught his eye because she incorporates the martial arts into the performance.  It's interesting to see Chuck Norris as not necessarily "action man" right out of the gates, but a leading man.  He's charming the girl, taking her out on a date, making conversation, etc.  Like a human...  I guess?

Don't get me wrong.  This is still Chuck Norris, so it's limited on what he can do as an actor.  So it's really good that they cut out a bunch of bullshit from the date and she takes him home.  When they go inside, his inner voice tells him that "There's someone here.  I can feel lit..."  Like he's got the Force or something.

Oh, who am I kidding, he's Chuck Norris.  Of course he has the Force.

Sure enough, there are ninjas in the house and he battles them.  One of them stab the dancer and when he turns on the lights, he realizes that everyone in the house were assassinated... by ninjas!  But Ninjas don't exist anymore!  And no one knows about them!  That is except for Chuck Norris and some dude named Seikura.
"Hello, operator?  I'm gonna need you to get the paramedics because I'm about to put a bunch of ninjas' asses in slings."
Chuck Norris flashes back to when he was training with Seikura and how they were raised as brothers. He desperately hopes Seikura isn't training ninjas.  He then meets up with a mercenary friend, Lee Van fuckin' Cleef.  He doesn't believe that Chuck Norris saw these ninjas.  Through various conversations with his buddy A.J. and Lee Van Cleef, we learn that Chuck Norris has gone super pacifist.  They haven't said yet why this is, but it's a really important in these early parts of the movie.

Chuck Norris meets another pretty lady who is having car problems on the side of the road.  He helps her and she eyes him like a dog eyes a steak.  He learns her name is Justine Wentworth and she has to leave in a hurry but gives her address and practically begs him to come to her house.  Which he does, out of necessity rather than desire.

Lee Van Cleef meets up with A.J. to give him some information that might help Chuck Norris.  In the meantime, though, Chuck Norris and this Justine lady are driving along and suddenly get chased by a couple cars, and Justine is forced to reveal to Chuck Norris that she hired Lee Van Cleef and his outfit as her bodyguards.  She ran afoul of some terrorists and has legitimate fears for her life.  So Chuck Norris asks her out to dinner.  You know - as you do when you meet a lady who has run afoul of terrorists.

Sprinkled throughout this movie are scenes back at the ninja training camp that are really fun and awesome.  You actually see lessons about expecting the unexpected, ninjas invading the barracks while the recruits sleep, etc.  The guy who runs the camp, Katsumoto, played by Yuki Shimoda, is so fucking rad.  When he had the ninjas invade the barracks, he specifically points out who would be injured, who would be in jeopardy, and who would be dead if this was an actual hostile situation.  I kinda want to join the ninja training camp.

So, what about this Justine situation?  Well, she hired Lee Van Cleef because she's on a mission to kill all these ninjas for killing her dad.  He said she would not be able to convince Chuck Norris to work for her to get to Seikura.  He's none too pleased about this because he refuses to believe Seikura, his freakin' brother, is involved.  After leaving her place pissed off, he meets up with A.J. who explains what he learned from Lee Van Cleef.  It turns out the dancer at the beginning of the movie, and her brother, worked for terrorists.  When her brother dumped a bunch of info to Interpol about the terrorists, she was targeted for death.  So she turned out to be a bad guy anyway.

In the newspaper, Chuck Norris spots a classified ad for mercenaries.  Which makes me wonder if that's literally how that works.  Can I just look up mercenary jobs on Monster.com or something?  I'd do a quick Google search, but these days I'd be afraid I'd be on some sort of watch list.

Anyway, Chuck Norris signs up under a different name - but one of the recruiters know exactly who he is.  You know, like every James Bond movie when he goes in claiming he is just some dude and some thug for the bad guy always knows he's MI-6 and, like, the super bad ass spy that he is.  Chuck Norris flashes back again to when he was 18.  Seikura was jealous of Chuck Norris (played by his son, Michael) besting him in a competition and was ultimately rejected by their father.  Their father tells Chuck Norris that he must never seek out his brother again because he is no longer family, he is an enemy forever more.

Chuck Norris uses A.J. to try to find out more about Justine while he goes to a mercenary camp run by a man named Doggo.  Naturally, Doggo knows who he is - because of course he does.  He tries to use Doggo to get connected to Seikura.  Doggo wants Chuck Norris to show off his skills, and, of course, Chuck Norris takes down like three or four guys like it is nothing.  Doggo calls some guy and finds out that it's likely Justine who put Chuck Norris on this path.

Chuck Norris' trail leads to a fur trader who once worked to supply Doggo and Seikura with money to operate the training of the terrorists and mercenaries.  He explains that he no longer works with them because he doesn't understand terrorists and their motives (however he is totally lying about this).  He tells Chuck Norris that his only information about Seikura's training camp would have to come through Doggo.

Meanwhile, Aura, a woman we've sort of been following throughout this movie, has stolen Chuck Norris' file and recognizes him as someone she can trust to help her.  She was sent to Seikura's camp to be better trained and utilized as a mercenary by Doggo.  She doesn't like her prospects as she's been ordered to go to Egypt on a surefire suicide mission.  She explains to Chuck Norris what her situation is and how he can help.

Elsewhere, the fur trader and Doggo meet and there are definitely some inner struggles occurring in this group.  The fur trader (who's name might be Puppers) suspects Doggo isn't the inspirational leader he was thought of after learning about Aura's defection.  Doggo doesn't agree with Seikura and sees him as a fanatic who can't be trusted.  Doggo learns his recruits will no longer be accepted by Seikura which leads to Doggo thinking he and the fur trader guy need to take out Seikura in a blood bath.

Chuck Norris tells Aura that he can't help her and that she needs to face her own mistakes.  Just as Aura tries to leave, Justine comes to the door and asks if he's seen A.J.  She believes A.J. has gone after Seikura alone.  Chuck Norris is angry about her planting the idea about taking on Seikura in his head.  However, when she finds A.J. in the lobby of Chuck Norris' apartment, she chases after him to tell him to stop, and she is killed by a poison dart from Doggo's men.  Lee Van Cleef then shows up to say he believes Seikura's camp is in Central America.

Chuck Norris and Aura plan to leave for the camp in the morning, but before they can, fucking ninjas storm Chuck Norris' home and he fights the shit out of them while Lee Van Cleef and his guys take on Doggo and those bad mercenary dudes.  This practically takes no time at all because that is just how fucking awesome Chuck Norris and Lee Van Cleef are.

Chuck Norris and Aura land in Mexico and Seikura uses the Force (I guess) to reach out to feel Chuck is coming.  He starts working out with some sweet ass ninja weapons to prepare.  First, Chuck Norris finds A.J. trying to learn which country Seikura's compound is found.  They each get their own transportation to whichever area in Central America the compound is located.  Of course, the night before, Chuck Norris gets some of that sweet, sweet Aura poon while we watch Seikura training and keeping his eye on the prize.
Look, I'm not here to say which preparation method is best, but I can say both methods lead to the same facial expression.
A.J. is the first to arrive at the camp.  Naturally, he is instantly captured and taken prisoner.  Because he is not Chuck Norris.  And he didn't use either of the above training methods to get ready for his eventual showdown with Seikura.

Chuck Norris then arrives and instructs Aura to stay behind, but she's not having it.  Chuck Norris sneaks in under the cover of night.  When the guard ninjas (yes, I typed that, and, yes, I'm better for having typed it) try to pounce, Chuck Norris is fucking awesome enough to anticipate them and defeat them as easily as I defeat myself in everything I do.  All the commotion stirred up by both Chuck Norris and Aura has awoken everyone in the camp.  There are so many kicks and punches.  So many kicks and punches.

It's fucking awesome!

Chuck Norris is eventually backed into a trap that leads him to have to go through an obstacle course full of ninjas and water and danger and stuff so he can get to Seikura.  I don't think I have to really say that Chuck Norris masters this shit like I master in eating McRibs.  Before Chuck Norris can get to either Seikura or save A.J., he has to take on one final ninja - a super bad ass warrior, who rocks the fuck out of sais, named Kyo.  Kyo proves to be a bit more problematic for Chuck Norris because he is also a black belt in fucking awesome (he's played by Richard Norton who was the bad guy in Gymkata).  Unfortunately, Seikura is an asshole and kills A.J. shortly after Chuck Norris lights Kyo on fire by kicking him into a burning thing that is, of course, in this fighting arena.

The recruits, with the help of Aura, rise up against the ninjas while Chuck Norris fights Seikura.  Their battle continues on outside the compound where finally Chuck Norris gets the better of his evil brother and runs him through his belly.

And how does the movie end?  With an embrace and kiss between Aura and Chuck Norris?  Some sort of deep line about being freed from his torment and he can now balance his aggression and peaceful pacifist nature he adopted over the years?

NOPE!

It just ends with Chuck Norris standing over Seikura's dead body as the sun comes up over the hills.  Now, that's a way to fucking end a movie.

This movie is fucking awesome.  It's not awesome in quite the same way as his Cannon Films features which were simply vehicles for trying to get a weapon into Chuck Norris' hand or how to make sure his foot connects with a bad guy's face.  No, this movie is an actual attempt at being a real movie that goes beyond any exploitative notions of American righteousness equals might.  Those Cannon Films were good at doing the over the top stuff (including a movie literally called Over the Top), but this one, this one is an actual attempt at having character development, arcs, and a decent plot of twists and turns.

I can see how this movie helped spawn the 80s subgenre of American action movies that revolved around kung fu and ninjas.  It was a for-real hit having grossed nearly $20 million against a budget of $4 million.  It's something that other companies, again Cannon being a major player in the genre, would want to replicate - and do so with upping the action and kung fu, while scaling down the story part.  And while Chuck Norris is still Chuck Norris and a little hamstrung in his acting talent, he's actually kind of charming in this movie.  He seems quite capable of carrying a movie on his own.  It's a shame that it seemed like his actual acting ability started to spiral downward with his later movies, but that might actually be a fault of the Cannon Films side of things instead of his true abilities.  In other words, it feels like this movie forced him to act while the Cannon Films side of his career just forced him to be hero man.

This movie is also helped by many recognizable faces.  Ernie Hudson plays a bit part as a karate champion in training.  Lee Van Cleef is no stranger to this genre at this time.  Art Hindle, who was A.J., was in several movies I've seen ranging from Porky's to Black Christmas and is still working to this day.  Gerald Okamura is an instructor at the Octagon and is also known for several movies in the 80s including Samurai Cop.  Tracey Walter, who was Bob the Goon in Batman, is even in this flick.

I definitely recommend you check this movie out.  It's damn fun and much more of a full movie experience over much of Chuck Norris' later movies.  Just remember - If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

This was just what the doctor ordered after last month.  So let's do it again, eh?  Next week, I'll take a look at the 1976 kung fu action flick Devil's Express!

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