Saturday, November 26, 2005

Review: Body Rock (1984)


Chilly D (Lorenzo Lamas) is a tough but sensitive New York street kid (assuming a thirty-year-old can qualify as a "kid.") He and his friends the Body Rock Crew spend their days hanging out in a run-down basement where they put on shows which include rapping and breakdancing. The Body Rock Crew also spend a lot of time making graffiti art, and Chilly thinks they could make big bucks like Basquiat if they only had an agent. To that end, Chilly seeks out a well-to-do promoter named Terrence who he hopes will manage their artistic endeavors.

Terrence isn't too impressed with Chilly's art, but as it turns out he is looking for entertainers for a new nightclub he's opening. Chilly convinces him to give the Body Rock Crew an audition. Upon leaving the meeting, Chilly is struck with the realization that he is possibly the only member of the Crew who has no actual talent and/or skills. He goes to the Crew's youngest member, an eight-year-old breakdancing prodigy named Magick, and talks the kid into giving him some lessons.

The lessons apparently work because when Terrence and his entourage come to see the Body Rock Crew in action, Chilly is the only member who he decides to hire for his club. His lack of talent doesn't stop Chilly from becoming the main attraction at the new club, to the initial delight of his friends in Body Rock. Soon, however, Chilly is predictably swept up in a storm of ego-stroking groupies and coke-snorting financiers and he no longer has time for his old pals.

A budding relationship with a sweet girl named Darlene falls by the boards as he hooks up with a skanky artist named Claire. Claire is a member of Terrence's happy-go-lucky group of hangers-on, and her interests include drugs, booze, sex, and those bodybuilder protein shakes. Chilly makes some half-hearted attempts to keep things going with Darlene, but he has trouble resisting Claire's drug-addled advances. Finally, Darlene confronts Chilly about Claire and he's either too honest or too stupid to deny his cheating ways.

Having lost his would-be girlfriend and fallen out of favor with the Body Rock Crew, Chilly spirals into a quick depression. After a show at the club, Terrence, Claire, and the rest of their group take him to a gay bar. One of Terrence's friends is an older, balding guy named Donald who always wears a tuxedo and is often present at these after-parties. When Donald tries to kiss Chilly, Chilly freaks out and punches him.

Little does Chilly know, Donald is the guy who actually owns the club, and Chilly soon finds himself out of a job. Things look bleak, but a few encouraging words from Magick get Chilly's mojo working again. Thanks to some sloppy screenwriting, Chilly and the Body Rock Crew all show up at the club for a big event called the "Rapstravaganza." Basically, this seems to boil down to Claire rehashing one of the song-and-dance numbers from Chilly's old act.

Chilly takes offense to this blatant copyright infringement and he and the Body Rock Crew take over the stage. Donald, who is watching this unfold from the DJ booth, nearly has a stroke. He tries to pull the plug, but the crowd seems ready to tear the place apart if they don't get their daily dose of Chilly, so he has no choice but to relent. After Body Rock puts on a movie-stopping performance Darlene forgets all about Chilly's probable STDs and the two of them run off happily into the night.


As you Dregophiles already know, there was a plethora of low-budget films during the early 1980's which tried to capitalize on the popularity of breakdancing and hip-hop music. We've already examined one such movie (Breakin' 2) in some detail. It may be useful, though, to talk about Body Rock in order to illustrate just how low on the quality scale these films can go. If you have even a passing appreciation for breakdancing or rap, Body Rock will be like watching someone flush your most cherished religious text down the toilet.

This is what happens when a bunch of aging white guys try to make a film about a phenomenon that is inherently urban and, well, non-white. They obviously don't "get" it, and the results are painfully embarrassing. There are serious undertones of racism running through Body Rock - most of the black characters in the film are scary gangsters and the only black person in the Body Rock Crew's core membership is a decidedly cute and unthreatening eight-year-old.

A discussion of Body Rock's many crimes against humanity must center primarily on the main character, Chilly D. Chilly is played by Lorenzo Lamas, who made his mark in the television drama "Falcon Crest" and would later star in dozens of awful action movies. To get an idea of Mr. Lamas' portrayal of Chilly, imagine taking John Travolta's character from Saturday Night Fever, chewing him up, digesting him, and excreting him into some parachute pants.

It's pretty clear that the Travolta factor played a large part in the conception of this role, but I must point out that Travolta could dance, whereas Lamas cannot. Having Chilly admit early on to a lack of talent may have been an attempt to get around this problem, but it doesn't really make sense when Terrence selects Chilly alone to work in the club. Lorenzo's breakin' (or "breaking," as Chilly would call it) is pretty weak, but his "rapping" is truly an abomination. Honestly, the man makes Vanilla Ice look like Dr. Dre. You'll thank your lucky stars that his raps are limited to about two minutes total, but those two minutes will seem like an eternity as Chilly haphazardly navigates some of the most insipid rhymes this side of a Hallmark card. Overlooking the stupidity of his lyrics, Chilly's rhythm is completely wrong - he gropes around for the beat but never actually connects with it.

As if his so-called raps weren't torture enough, we're also subjected to Chilly's take on a "sexy" R&B ballad called "Smooth Talker" (this is during his tenure as the headliner at the club). He dresses up like the lost member of LaBelle, complete with glitter on his face, and belts out this charming little ditty with a "seductive" look on his face that had me reaching for a vomit receptacle. I was squirming uncomfortably in my seat as he breathlessly drooled out lyrics such as "I'm gonna stalk you like an animal and eat you like a cannibal." It's enough to make you wish vocal chords had never been invented. Did I mention that Chilly lives with his mother?

But maybe I'm being too hard on poor ol' Chilly D. There's plenty of blame to go around in this film. Why, the entire Body Rock Crew (save Magick, who had actual talent) deserves a good beat-down. E-Z, the resident DJ, never so much as scratches a record - he just stands on the stage carefully adjusting the positions of his turntables. Jama, the supposed rapper of the group, may be one of the few ostensibly gay rap stars of the 1980s. Which would be fine if he could rap, but sadly, his lispy rhymin' is only marginally better than Chilly's. Some of the supplemental Body Rock dancers are pretty funny, especially this doughy white guy with a curly blonde mullet and John Oates mustache who seems to go into spasms every time he takes the stage. God bless him, he was one of the few things that kept me going in this turkey.

Final Analysis

Body Rock tried very hard to turn me against breakdancing, hip-hop, and even life itself. I'm happy to report that it didn't succeed in breaking me, but it was a little dicey for a while. This movie made me ashamed to be white (like I needed another reason), and unless you're watching it as penance for some grievous sin, I suggest you stay well away from Chilly D and the Body Rock Crew.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

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


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.


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.