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Code of Silence

Film critic Roger Ebert loved CODE OF SILENCE when it came out in 1985 and predicted that it would elevate Chuck Norris to the rank of A-list action star. There's no doubt that it's, by far, Norris' best film.

If you've never seen it, I think you might be surprised by just how good it is.

Norris stars as by-the-book Chicago cop Eddie Cusack. His squad of hard boiled cops remind me of Burt Reynolds crew in 1981's "Sharkey's Machine". Some great, some bad apples. They're led by Dorado, played by Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Manhunter). Cusack and his crew are about to close a major crime ring/drug bust that they've worked on for months against the Comacho crime family.

But something goes awry when the rival Luna crime family barges in disguised as a construction crew, killing everyone in sight. During the melee, an innocent boy is shot and killed by one of Cusack's team who plants a weapon on the boy. Cusack suspects that the cop Cragie (Ralph Foody from "Home Alone") isn't telling the truth and calls him out.

A full-on crime family war breaks out.

Henry Silva (Dick Tracy, Sharkey's Machine) is Comacho, a violent and lethal boss, relentlessly wiping out entire families for revenge.

Luna's daughter Diana escapes the killing and Cusack puts her under his own protection. No one on his squad wants to take his side except for Dorado, setting up the classic lone cop scenario that's made for plenty of great films over the years.

The screenplay by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack (Pale Rider, The Gauntlet) is better than you'd expect, with plenty of the crime family's older members sharply drawn and Cusack's methods as rogue as Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection". There's a decent car chase on Lower Wacker in Chicago (if you know you know) and an even better foot chase across the roofs of an elevated train downtown. That is definitely Chuck Norris running across those roofs with the train barreling through the city at full speed.

Director Andrew Davis is no b-movie hack and would move up the ladder after this film, eventually helming Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive".

The music by David Michael Frank is so 80's you can almost smell the shores of "Miami Vice". The movie eventually falls into some goofiness in the last 20 minutes as Cusack hijacks a giant robocop like automated vehicle called The Prowler to help him rescue a hostage, but damned if that isn't plenty of fun in a goofball "Short Circuit" meets "Runaway" meets "Delta Force" kinda way.

Through it all, Silva glares and Norris rains down truth and justice one giant double barrel blast at a time.

This defines the action films of the 80's. Norris, Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis churned out these action flicks every year. Surprisingly, one of the best of them came from Norris. CODE OF SILENCE gets an explosive and nostalgic B.

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