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Exciting silence

Code of Silence, produced by Raymond Wagner; directed by Andy Davis; with Chuck Norris. Playing at the Sack Cinema 57. Rated R.

Code of Silence is far from perfect, but it isn't a bad action police-story. The storyline, direction, and acting fit nicely together in a way that makes this policeman-as-hero flick a cut above the average television cop show.

Macho actor Chuck Norris plays a police sergeant whose uncompromising honesty and incredible fighting abilities make him seem a little too good to be true. Norris is out to stop a drug war between rival crime organizations, even if all his men desert him and he has to do it single-handedly.

Norris is so good in this movie he made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Female lead Molly Hagen is so good she made something else stand up, but this is a family newspaper and the editors won't let me elaborate.

Norris is a tough-guy actor similar to Charles Bronson, only better than Bronson. In Code of Silence he is quiet but tough, unliked by his peers but very likable to the audience. Always in control of himself, nothing is ever out of Norris's abilities. He can do anything if he sets his mind to it.

Unlike other macho actors like Clint Eastwood, Norris isn't an elitist, brooding, mystery man who rules other people by force of personality. Norris is much more of a down-home type. You can imagine him being your next-door neighbor, and you get the impression that he has reached his high level of competence only through tremendous self-discipline.

The main problem with Norris, though, is that in all his movies he does karate. Norris is a former professional karate champion, and in real karate movies his exploits are acceptable; but in Code of Silence they seem out of place, especially as Norris takes on about thirty gang members in an unfriendly bar and almost beats them all. In a movie in which as many people die as in Code of Silence, we have to suspend belief somewhat; but having the star go into some karate craze when the going gets tough makes it harder to digest the fantasy.

Norris aside, the best thing about the movie is some first-rate action direction by Andy Davis. There are no fancy director tricks, just simple, straightforward storytelling, at a good pitch and pace. Davis captures the urban atmosphere of the story well -- the atmosphere in which nobody, gang member or policeman, breaks the "code of silence."

The screenplay could use some work. There is some pretty stupid dialogue here: too many obcenities and too much exposition in the conversations.

The story is exciting all the way through and it climaxes in a good chase/shootout sequence. This is basically a populist fantasy about a no-nonsense hero who is scared neither of the most ruthless criminals nor of his own police department organization and who is concerned only about justice. It may sound a little implausible if you think about it, but if you're just out to have a good time, Code of Silence is not a bad choice for a movie.

Dan Crean->