Saturday, November 12, 2005

Review: Delta Force 2: the Colombian Connection (1990)

Synopsis

In Rio de Jainero, a team of DEA agents from the U.S. have set up a sting operation designed to capture one of Latin America's drug kingpins - Ramon Cota (Billy Drago). Cota doesn't often leave his home country of San Carlos, where he is safe from extradition thanks to the corrupt president who gives him shelter there. He's come to Rio for Carnival, so it's a rare opportunity for the DEA to nab him. Unfortunately for the DEA agents, Cota knows they're coming and his men present them with a Carnival gift of several thousand piping-hot bullets.

DEA Agent Page (an escapee from the massacre in Rio) enlists the help of General Taylor of the U.S. military to go after Cota again. Taylor provides two men from America's highly-trained commando unit the Delta Force for a clandestine mission to kidnap Cota while he's on a plane back to San Carlos, and then bring him to the States where DEA officials can pick him up and prosecute him. The chosen Delta Force members are none other than Colonel Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris) and his beefy pal Major Bobby Chavez.

McCoy and Chavez have no trouble abducting Cota, but at trial the judge sets bail at a mere ten million dollars, an amount Cota can easily peel off the roll of bills in his sock. Cota makes a snide remark as he's leaving the courtroom and Chavez takes it upon himself to punch him in the face. Cota considers this unfriendly and subsequently kills Chavez's teenaged brother and pregnant wife.

Chavez goes mental and tries to hunt Cota down in San Carlos (where Cota fled after jumping bail). Agent Page and two of his men are in San Carlos as well, and Cota captures all four of them and takes them to his mansion. He kills Chavez with poison gas and sends a videotape of the murder to the U.S. government. This gets General Taylor and Colonel McCoy mighty steamed up and they make a plan to free the DEA hostages and reap vengeance on Cota.

McCoy parachutes into San Carlos ahead of Taylor and the rest of the Delta Force and meets up with a girl named Quiquina, one of the many victims of Cota's unbelievable cruelty. Quiquina shows McCoy the way to Cota's mansion. To get in, McKoy must scale a sheer mountainside. He nearly falls to his death several times and fights off angry mountain snakes but makes it eventually. He frees Page and the other DEA guys and has a big fight with Cota's bodyguard, but Cota gets the drop on McCoy and tries to give him a poison gas spa treatment. Just then, the Delta Force shows up and launches about a hundred rockets into the mansion, knocking Cota unconscious and allowing McCoy to get out of the gas chamber.

McCoy and Page grab the unconscious Cota, steal a car, and drive, somewhat inexplicably, into the jungle. Cota's men give chase and corner them in a small village. General Taylor provides air support in his helicopter, gunning down most of Cota's henchmen, but Cota gives McCoy the slip. Quiquina follows Cota into the jungle hoping to get revenge for the killing of her husband and child, but it is she who is killed. McCoy catches up with Cota and kicks him around a bit.

General Taylor lowers a couple of harnesses down from the chopper for McCoy and Cota. As they're lifting off, one of Cota's men tries to cut him free, but the helicopter starts winding up the ropes. Cota taunts McCoy, but not for long because his partially-cut harness rope gives way and he plummets to his death.

Comments

After the reasonably entertaining explosion-fest that was the original Delta Force, this flabby and frankly boring sequel was a real disappointment. The drama and tension of the first film are totally lacking here - there just isn't much to get excited about. Even the Chuck Factor is running low - when he's delivering roundhouse kicks to the heads of his foes he looks about as enthusiastic as a cashier at Wal-Mart.

Numerous factors set this film apart from its predecessor, starting with the bloated, confusing plot. The original Delta Force took its story from the hijacking of a commercial airplane and the subsequent hostage situation in the Middle East. Delta Force 2's plot takes a sort of general concept - that cocaine comes to the U.S. from Latin America - and just runs with it, making everything else up. They even invent entire countries in the process (San Carlos?) One wonders why they named the film "the Colombian Connection" when Colombia is never mentioned, let alone what it might be connected to.

The former film also had the benefit of a large cast of semi-reputable actors (Lee Marvin, Martin Balsam, Robert Forster, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters, etc...). The only actor of note in DF2 is the inimitable Mr. Norris. Don't get me wrong - I love Chuck. You can just feel the strain when he's trying to hold up a whole movie all by himself.

The only other actor worth mentioning here is Billy Drago, a character actor familiar to watchers of low-grade cinema. He makes a serviceable villain, but he seems to be trying too hard to be evil. It's a strange bit of casting if you ask me - why hire a white guy from Kansas to play a Latin American drug lord? With his pale, skinny face and geeky ponytail, he just doesn't look the part, and he doesn't even make an attempt at an accent. I just wonder how a midwesterner gets a job as a cocaine kingpin - did he just have a really good interview?

In addition to its questionable villiain, DF2 also features two incredibly annoying characters. The first is McCoy's buddy Major Bobby Chavez. He's basically a side of beef with a mullet. He acts like a man who's spent too much time sniffing airplane glue, and if this guy made it into the Delta Force, I'm seriously worried about our national security. He constantly drools over his poor beleaguered wife, making all mushy and kissy-face whenever the two of them are out in public. It might be an exaggeration to say that I enjoyed watching him choke on poison gas, but let's just say I didn't miss him once he was out of the picture.

The other guy that made me want to throw a brick through the t.v. was General Tayor. He wasn't instantly obnoxious like Chavez; he was just increasingly creepy and unsettling. First of all, he was way too emotionally intense for a high-ranking military official. He seemed to be riding some sort of mood roller-coaster at all times, like a manic-depressive in need of a medication adjustment. Not the kind of person you necessarily want to be in charge of the rocket launcher on the helicopter. I also began to notice that in EVERY SINGLE SCENE, Taylor ended his conversations by touching the person he was talking to. Sometimes he'd pat their back, sometimes he'd grab their arm meaningfully, sometimes he'd put his arm around their shoulder and practically give them a hug. It freaked me out. Keep the guy away from me.

My favorite scene in DF2 is probably the big fight between McCoy and Cota's bodyguard. In addition to being the only really satisfying fight scene in the movie (all the others are very short and one-sided), I found it especially pleasing because the bodyguard strongly resembles grating prop-comic and watermellon-smasher Gallagher. It was enjoyable - for me, at least - to imagine that he WAS, in fact, Gallagher. It's a shame that nobody back in the 80's picked up on the concept of a Chuck Norris vs. Gallagher battle to the death (Gallagher would have been allowed to use his trademark sledgehammer, of course). What an HBO special that would have made!

Of its many failings, though, the most egregious one in DF2 is the underuse of Chuck. Director Aaron Norris (and I'm sure the name is just a coincidence, by the way) never gives Chuck the kind of awe-inspiring moments that make or break stupid action films like this. He doesn't even have a catch-phrase, for Pete's sake! And it's never a good sign when you waste your star's time in a mountain-climbing sequence. Long scenes of mountain-climbing (or its cousin, scuba-diving) effect me like an instant dose of Nytol. Not a good thing in an action film.

Final Analysis

With apologies to Chuck, this is not one of his better films. It's riddled with plot-holes instead of bullets, and he just doesn't seem very into it this time out. Especially bad in comparison to the much more interesting original Delta Force. Unless you really need a Norris fix, its safe to skip this one.

2 Comments:

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Ambivalent_Maybe said...

I've not seen this movie, but your synopsis made me inexplicably nostalgic for the 'ohmygod drug lords are going kill us all' 1980s. Though I was not a big fan of those war-on-drugs years when they were happening--or 'going down,' as it were--they seem today almost quaint in their hysteric search for implacable enemies. Take that, uh... Grenada! So you think you're tough, huh Pablo? Well, we'll just see how much cocaine you sell once our new public service announcements hit the air! Sure--DF2 was released in 1990, but it seems like a quintessential product of the Reagan years. Those of us complaining about Reagan back then simply had no idea how bad things could get.

It's also interesting to note that in the final scene of DF2, Norris's character retains some of the archaic nobility of classic cinematic law enforcement, seeking to bring his foe to justice rather than exact a personal (and seemingly well-deserved) revenge. Was this the last major action movie in which the hero did not intentionally dispatch foes with a sneer and a wisecrack?

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger sacrifice pawn said...

Interesting points, A.M. This movie definitely had that 80's War-on-Drugs feel to it. I guess it's always easier to blow up some Latin American country than to actually do something about the drug problem here in the U.S.

As to Cota's death, I should flesh out that final scene a bit as some of the subtle nuances didn't make it into the synopsis. As Cota and McCoy are being lifted up to the helicopter, they're only hanging a few feet apart. As Cota mocks McCoy, threatening to increase his drug shipments to America once he's out of jail again, we see McCoy begin to gently unsheath his trusty combat knife. He then notices that Cota's rope is about to snap, so he replaces the knife and just lets gravity do the job. In the end, I guess McCoy treads the line between the hero who brings the bad guy to justice and the one who dispatches him personally.

Cota's demise was a little disappointing to me, possibly because his evil deeds seemed to warrant a more extreme death. There's an unspoken code in action movies wherein the more egregious a villain's behavior, the more painful their eventual death. It's not universal, but if you watch a lot of these movies you can't help but notice it. I think a scale should be implemented to determine how extreme any given villain's death should be. Low level henchmen usually only warrant a Level One death (instant death by gunshot or broken neck), whereas the "big boss," having engaged in murder, torture, rape, etc... will have to face a Level Five (death by being punched through a plate-glass window, falling thirty stories, and being painfully impaled on a pointy statue, for example.) I may have to write up an article on this. If anyone wants to offer suggestions, please feel free!

 

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