• Code Of Silence

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
    Released on: December 12, 2017
    Director: Andrew Davis
    Cast: Chuck Norris, Henry Silva, Bert Remsen, Mike Genovese, Molly Hagan, Ron Dean, Dennis Farina, and John Mahoney
    Year: 1985
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    The Movie:

    1985 was probably Chuck Norris’ last and best year as an action movie star. He had three features released that year and each one was a solid box office hit, but his continued association with the floundering Cannon Pictures and the changing tastes of fans saw his big screen fortunes fade fast and his career in need of a resuscitation that only his 1990’s TV hit Walker, Texas Ranger could deliver. Between Mission in Action 2: The Beginning and the indescribably awesome Invasion U.S.A., moviegoers caught the martial arts cinema icon and future star of countless Internet memes kicking ass and taking the occasional name in Code of Silence, which is likely the most accomplished and entertaining film Norris ever made.

    Code was bankrolled by Orion Pictures, the same studio that had released the Norris hit Lone Wolf McQuade in 1983. Norris’ earlier movies were competently made and often featured professional name actors on hand to make their undertalented star look like not the most lifeless actor who ever achieved unlikely silver screen stardom, but what made Code one of the 1980’s better action films was the guiding hand of director Andrew Davis. Perhaps best known as the man behind the 1993 Oscar-winning suspense thriller smash The Fugitive as well as two of Steven Seagal’s best movies, Above the Law (1988) and Under Siege (1993), Davis’ career as a director began inauspiciously with the low-budget drama Stony Island and the unexceptional backwoods slasher flick The Final Terror, but as a cinematographer he plied his trade filming cinematic gems like the intense teen drama Over the Edge and Paul Bartel’s cult black comedy thriller Private Parts. The man showed great promise behind the camera, promise that was finally fulfilled with Code of Silence.

    Davis chose to shoot Code, which had originally been conceived years before as the fourth in the Dirty Harry franchise at Warner Bros., entirely on location in his hometown of Chicago and surrounded his star Norris with a supporting cast of stage and screen vets and actual cops moonlighting as actors who mostly called the Windy City their home and brought an authenticity to their roles that no amount of Method training or brilliant screenwriting could replicate. While the storyline might not be the most credible or realistic (especially in the end where Norris takes on an army of Colombian drug cartel goons with only a heavily-armed police robot for support), the location filming and skillful underplaying from veteran actors like Ron Dean (The Breakfast Club, The Dark Knight), Mike Genovese (Thief), Nathan Davis (Poltergeist III), Bert Remsen (Nashville), Allen Hamilton (The Fugitive), Ralph Foody (The Blues Brothers, Home Alone), and real-life Chicago cops turned actors Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) and Joseph F. Kosala (Under Siege) keep the potentially absurd material grounded and full of personality.

    Code of Silence casts Norris as Sgt. Eddie Cusack, a dedicated and resourceful Chicago detective who isn’t having a very good day as the movie starts out because a narcotics sting operation he and his crew spent a long time setting up and carrying out is literally blown to hell by an execution squad of Italian mob heavies lead by Mafia higher-up Tony Luna (Genovese). The dealers hit by Genovese were part of a notorious Colombian cartel run by the Comacho family, whose ruthless head Luis (Henry Silva) soon arrives in Chi-Town to exact vengeance on Luna and everyone he has ever known and/or loved, including his daughter Diana (Molly Hagan).

    Cusack functions just fine as a one-man army, but it would be nice if he had some help in protecting Diana and battling the Comacho clan from his fellow officers. Unfortunately, they’re mostly pissed at Eddie for refusing to back up longtime cop Cragie (Foody) after the street veteran shot an unarmed teenager during the botched drug sting and then planted a gun on the dead kid to make it look like the killing was in self-defense. Mobster Scalese (Davis) delights in pointing out to Cusack that he and his criminal associates are not that much different from the cops, as both groups look out for their own and enforce a “code of silence” that means serious trouble for anyone who dares to break it regardless of the circumstances. This subplot, now more relevant in 2018 than ever before, has helped Davis’ film age remarkably well.

    But worry not, action fans! You came into Code of Silence looking for some quality thrills and this flick delivers the goods. Besides the unexpected bonus of that aforementioned police robot that acts like a prototype of ED-209 with a comforting female voice doing some major damage during the final battle, Davis keeps the fights coming and the bullets flying in nearly every other scene. He pauses the mayhem just long enough for some welcome character development, but other than that it’s chases, shootouts, and a few of Chuck’s patented hand-to-hand throwdowns including one furious punch-up in that most hallowed of late 80’s/early 90’s action movie fight scene settings – the grungy downtown poolhall! The action highlight of Code is an extended set-piece that begins with Cusack fighting it out with some of Comacho’s hired thugs who are going after Diana and culminating in a foot chase and fist fight on the roof of an elevated train that isn’t slowed down the least by both combatants diving into the Chicago River.

    No one ever hired Chuck Norris for his acting ability, but the dude does get a few good dramatic moments to shine in Code of Silence – mostly in his interactions with Hagan, who really must shoulder the emotional weight of the story and does a fine job of it in the process. Perennial screen heavy Silva (whose presence here reminded me of the Italian crime thrillers he did back in the 70’s that were very influential on movies like Code) performs well as the Colombian drug kingpin with a few serious scores to settle. Though he isn’t permitted much scenery to chew, Silva makes Luis Comacho a suitable enough villain for Norris to take on in the violent finale.


    Code of Silence returns to Region A Blu-ray, this time from Kino Lorber as part of the label’s Studio Classics line, and the disc comes with a snazzy 1080p high-definition transfer similar to the one prepared by MGM for their 2012 Blu-ray release of Code and presented in the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. This is the best the film has ever looked on home video, no doubt, as the upgrade in picture resolution brings out vibrant colors and rich texture in the cinematography. Facial details appear sharp and accurate and a fine layer of grain compliments the cleaned-up picture beautifully. The application of digital noise reduction was definitely avoided here.

    The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 commendably recreates the original theatrical mono sound mix, which was undemanding and focused its energies primarily on audible dialogue and Frank’s score, but the 5.1 track exclusive of this release provides a more spacious and balanced rendering of the various integral sound elements and allows for some ambient noise in the exteriors to creep into the mix. Purists might be happy with the 2.0 option, but they should give its alternate a chance because it’s by far the superior track. English subtitles have also been provided.

    Outside of the original theatrical trailer (3 minutes), every bonus feature on Kino’s Blu-ray is exclusive to this release. Things start out unpromisingly with a commentary with director Davis that provides a basic overview of the film’s development and production, including filming on location in his native Chicago and working with Chuck Norris, but the track has so much dead air that only the most devoted fans of the director’s work will be able to maintain interest without switching it off.

    Much better are the four new retrospective interviews with several of the film’s key players. First off, screenwriter Michael Butler is present for “A History of Silence” (10 minutes) and talks about how he and writing partner Dennis Shryack had originally scripted Code of Silence to be the fourth Dirty Harry movie back in the late 70’s before Clint Eastwood rejected it in favor of what would become Sudden Impact. Butler breaks down the Code script as he and Shryack had envisioned it and reveals that they were not involved in reworking it as a vehicle for Chuck Norris. Butler’s comments are very honest and insightful. Co-star Ron Dean is next with “Good Cop, Bad Cop” (10 minutes). Familiar to fans of classic summer blockbusters like The Fugitive and The Dark Knight, Dean spends his time recounting how he got into acting after working as a cab driver and strip club doorman before focusing on Code of Silence and his mostly fond memories of the production.

    “Confessions of a Mafia Daughter” (13 minutes) is a warm and amusing look back with co-star Molly Hagan, who cheerfully admits to scoring the crucial female lead role of Diana in Code upon moving out to Los Angeles from Chicago where she then recently graduated from Northwestern University. She credits an ear infection that she may have gotten from body surfing in the polluted Santa Monica Bay for helping her secure the part (and recalls reading opposite Michael Ironside, who was subsequently not cast in the film) and is very open about how a miscommunication on the set lead to a rumor that persisted for years that she had called Norris an asshole. Her efforts to make amends are priceless as well, but Hagan’s recollections of the shoot are mostly positive.

    The last of the video features is “The City Stirs” (12 minutes), a conversation with composer Frank in which he discusses his early days in film music, the influence of Tangerine Dream on his work, reluctantly getting into action movie scoring, and more. Kino’s extras line-up concludes with additional trailers for the Davis-directed The Package and the Norris action flicks An Eye for an Eye, Hero & the Terror, and Delta Force 2.

    The Final Word:

    Absolutely without a single doubt Chuck Norris’ best film and a damn fine breakthrough for director Andrew Davis (who sadly was unable to top the critical and commercial success of The Fugitive despite being a consistently solid director), Code of Silence is one of the 1980’s most entertaining and surprisingly intelligent and emotional action thrillers. After more than three decades, Davis’ film still holds up marvelously, and the top-notch picture and sound quality and supplements on Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray release should ensure Code has an even longer shelf life with action cinema fans. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      This one and Lone Wolf McQuade...oh, and the Delta Force films...are my favourite Chucks!
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Good flick but Invasion USA will always be my favorite.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      This is easily my favorite Chuck