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Hero and the Terror
As the 1980s drew to a close, action legend Chuck Norris began stretching his abilities a bit. No longer able to perform the stunt work that made him famous in movies like The Delta Force and The Way of the Dragon, Norris took on the role of Danny O'Brien, a Los Angeles cop tracking a serial killer, in Hero and the Terror. There is little Norris action and a lot more dramatic acting than was expected from the actor at the time. This is not always a comfortable combination for Norris, but Hero and the Terror is a decent thriller. Norris holds his own as the cop traumatized by an encounter with killer Simon Moon (Jack O'Halloran), and the receding terror returns when Moon breaks out of prison. This is certainly not Norris' most famous film, but it is worth a look for Norris fans and casual viewers alike.
O'Brien awakens in a panic night after night. Vivid memories of a showdown with Moon that nearly killed him plague his dreams. Moon spent years snapping the necks of beautiful women and piling their bodies into his twisted lair. O'Brien almost died by Moon's hands, but is even more troubled that Moon was apprehended not by his skill but after the killer fell from a ladder. The papers dub O'Brien a hero, but he struggles with the knowledge that it was blind luck. Brynn Thayer plays O'Brien's therapist girlfriend Kay. She helps him deal with the news that Moon escaped from confinement. Apparently, it was OK for doctors to sleep with their patients in the ‘80s.
The film is full of ‘80s action cliches, like incompetent police work, cheesy romantic drama, and a killer that manages to slip through every institutional crack despite having killed 20+ women. Moon does not speak, and is mostly an imposing death machine. His victims waltz into frame seconds before having their necks broken, so you do not really emphasize with any of them. O'Brien is a better character, and Norris manages to show the man's fear, regret and resolve without resorting to overacting. A brief glance at Norris fan sites reveals that his most ardent fans are not particularly fond of Hero and the Terror, citing a lack of Norris martial arts action, but this is not a bad transition film for the actor.
William Tannen (Flashpoint) directs, and Michael Blodgett adapts his own novel into the screenplay here. The interpersonal drama is probably the best part of Hero and the Terror. Although Moon is ruthlessly violent, the film is not particularly suspenseful thanks to a lack of cat-and-mouse chases or scenes with Moon stalking his victims. Moon appears and women die before the audience has reason to worry. There is a bit of action in an abandoned theater near the finale to satisfy the Norris faithful, and the film is competently edited and staged. It is worth viewing to witness Norris' transition into drama, and Hero and the Terror is not an unpleasant ‘80s relic.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from Kino Lorber is decent, and the transfer is pleasantly free of noise reduction and edge halos. The print is reasonably clean, and there is some decent fine-object detail. The film has a softer appearance due to the cheap stock and low-budget filming techniques, and the grain is heavy at times. Black levels can be problematic, as crush tends to overrun shadow detail. This is likely inherent in the source. Colors are reasonably well saturated, though skin tones look a bit pale.
The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix features clear dialogue, nicely balanced music and some surround effects work. I didn't notice hiss or distortion, and the surrounds get a light workout during some outdoor and action scenes. No subtitle options are included.
The only extra is the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:26/SD).
This is not the ass-kicking Chuck Norris of the early 1980s, but his dramatic performance here is not half bad. Hero and the Terror sees Norris haunted by memories of a violent killer, and he must face this fear head-on when the man escapes from prison. The film could be more suspenseful, but this is an interesting transition project for the action legend. Rent It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.