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Cannon Films are known for having produced some of the most enjoyable and eccentric action flicks of the ’80s – but The Delta Force, which boasts scenes of Chuck Norris flying through the air on a motorbike mounted with missiles, surely stands as one of their most entertaining efforts.
 
American Travel Ways Flight 282 has been hijacked by a group of terrorists claiming to represent the New World Revolutionary Organisation. The Delta Force, under the leadership of Major Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris), is called in to handle the situation. Still smarting from an ill-fated hostage rescue mission several years prior, this elite squad of special forces is determined to succeed in its mission this time – and assert the might of the American military once and for all.
 
Drawing on a number of true-life terrorist incidents for inspiration, most notably the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, The Delta Force is a non-stop thrill ride which culminates in one of the most explosive action flick finales of all time. With Chuck Norris on hand to provide the obligatory muscle and gravelly-voiced Lee Marvin in his last ever screen role, The Delta Force is one mission well worth accepting. (Taken from the official synopsis.)


I don't consider myself a Cannon Films aficionado, but in researching for this review I discovered that I've actually seen (and enjoyed) a great many of their films. Growing up in England I was familiar with their cinema chains, as a number of theatres in my home town fell under their umbrella, and of course their home video imprint was how I was unwittingly exposed to many of their films. When I think back to my childhood I have fond memories of playground discussions of Bbreakin' (and of course its sequel), and as I got a bit older I discovered the delights of such guilty pleasures as the American Ninja series, Lifeforce, Cobra, Invaders from Mars, Superman IV, Masters of the Universe, Bloodsport, Cyborg, Kickboxer and even their Captain America movie.

Curiously I never really been into Chuck Norris films, so this marked the first time I'd ever seen The Delta Force, and I've never seen any of the actor's other Cannon projects. On the whole it delivered pretty much what I expected, which is to say aggressive patriotism couple with over-the-top action. However, what I didn't expect was the presence of so many 'name' actors in a film of this ilk, and I was quite surprised to see faces like Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, Robert Forster (in 'brown face' no less), Shelley Winters and George Kennedy alongside frequent Cannon collaborators like Norris and Steve 'American Ninja' James. I was also surprised by the relatively large scale of the picture, with the action occurring in multiple locations, often featuring hundreds of extras.

Less surprising was the hammy acting from lead Norris, which is something I've come to expect from my exposure to films such as A Force of One and The Octagon. The film is also way too long and could easily stand to lose thirty minutes or so from its running time without any ill effects. As it stands the pacing is glacial, and it's not until around the eighty minute mark that Norris and co. start taking it to the terrorists. If you can make it through the first portion of the film there's actually some fun, if silly, action to be found, with Norris riding a souped-up motorcycle with fore and aft rocket launchers! Strangely we don't really see too much of Chuck's martial arts ability in this one, as he spends more time dispatching foes with various guns than he does pummelling them with his fists.

I wouldn't call The Delta Force a good film, but it's certainly the best Chuck Norris movie I've seen (admittedly my exposure is limited). Unfortunately it hails from a era of American excess and perceived invincibility, and in this day and age its particular brand of rabid nationalism is out of favour. There's nostalgic fun to be had here, but what action there is comes too late to compensate for the ponderous first half, and let's face it people don't watch Chuck Norris films for their dramatic content...

As with a number of their other recent releases, Arrow has licensed The Delta Force materials from a third-party rather than producing it in-house. Here's what the accompanying booklet has to say about the technical side of things:

Quote: The HD master for The Delta Force was produced by MGM and delivered by Hollywood Classics. The original transfer was produced by Paramount from an original 35mm Interpositive and the original 4-tracks stereo printmaster magnetic tracks.

Video


I've read at least one review of this disc that claims it blows the US release away visually, but as far as I can tell the two releases are identical (or near as damn it). The cinematography is fairly typical of low budget action movies from the eighties, which is to say relatively soft and gritty, but close-ups reveal a surprising amount of detail. There is plenty of grain on show, some of it very heavy, but for me this is always preferable to DNR and makes for a more 'authentic' viewing experience. Colours are vibrant and appear largely natural for the most part, although there are a few instances where they look a little over-saturated. Black crush is also evident in some shots (as is noise) and more than a few film artefacts can be found throughout the film, but these issues don't significantly detract from the overall viewing experience when you consider the age and nature of the original materials. Visually The Delta Force is a solid catalogue title, if not quite up there with some of Arrow's best.

Audio


If the visuals don't convince you that you're watching an eighties movie, the LPCM 2.0 Stereo soundtrack most certainly will. Although unmistakeably of its time and severely limited when compared to the multi-channel surround mixes featured in modern action pictures, it's a perfectly functional track that gets the job done. It true that dynamic range is limited and that the absence of a dedicated LFE channel limits the impact of the various explosions, but on the plus side dialogue is intelligible and Alan Silvestri's relentlessly upbeat synth score has adequate presence. I'm led to believe that some HDTV broadcast versions have featured 5.1 mixes, but this is how the film would have originally been presented theatrically so there's little cause for complaint. It gets the job done, nothing more, nothing less.

Extras


A modest but enjoyable collection of bonus features are included, along with Arrow's customary reversible sleeve and accompanying booklet. Here's what you can expect to find on the disc.

  • Genre Hijackers: Mark Hartley on Cannon Films: This is an interesting piece in which the filmmaker discusses the legacy of producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and their Cannon group.
  • Chuck Norris Scribe: Another interesting interview, this time with James Bruner, who wrote a number of Cannon's features back in the eighties.
  • May The Delta Force Be With You!: This is an interview with Commandant Christian Prouteau, the founder of the French GIGN and instructor of the first Delta Force. Presented in French with English subtitles, it's a little on the dry side by still worth a watch.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer: The trailer is included in high-definition.
  • Reversible Sleeve
  • Collector’s Booklet

Overall


It's unnecessarily long and takes an eternity to get to the action, but The Delta Force is not entirely devoid of entertainment value. Those with a greater fondness for Chuck Norris than I will surely be over the moon to have the film on Blu-ray, particularly in light of the impressive visuals. This is another solid catalogue release from Arrow, who continue to bring genre films that would otherwise go unreleased to the masses.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Delta Force, The
 Delta Force, The
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