The Octagon

The tagline for The Octagon is “no one will admit they still exist.” I can’t believe this film still exists for home viewing. About a month ago I was in the mood for a cheesy action film and found this on Netflix’s instant list. It’s hilarious. I don’t believe it was intended to be, but its unintentional comedy at its finest. For all of its awfulness, it’s highly entertaining, stupid fun.

Chuck Norris plays Scott James, an ass-kicking karate champion that was raised by ninjas…or something. His adopted Chinese brother and James had a falling out for some reason and now the brother runs a secret ninja training school for terrorists somewhere in Central America. Actually, the film never tells you where anything takes place and the only reason I could conclude that the primary location is California is by the license plates. Throughout the film Norris interacts with anti-terrorist goons, led by Lee Van Cleef, and an heiress who knows secrets about ninjas and other inane stuff. The film culminates in a giant fight between the ninjas, Norris, and the anti-terrorist goofs. Explosions occur, fires start, people are killed, etc.

What stood out in this film, aside from Norris’ inner dialogue which echoes and is whispered, is the brazen disrespect for law and order in pursuit of law and order. Norris and his anti-terrorist buddies are fighting against terrorists for the sake of American values but constantly disregard America’s laws in order to achieve their agendas. They have no respect for other cultures, especially those of Central and South America, and tow the party line when it comes to colonization and exploitation of third world countries. This attitude bothers me personally, since I find it insulting to deem people terrorists when they are being invaded and exploited. I’m not saying that I like it when Americans are injured or killed, but what should be expected when one’s environment is usurped and lives are put in jeopardy? If somebody invaded the United States I don’t think our efforts to foil them would be seen as terrorist acts. But I should get off my unreasonable diatribe and back to The Octagon.

I couldn’t find any information regarding the film’s budget but it made over $17 million dollars according to Box Office Mojo. I can’t see the film costing more than a million dollars in 1980s dollars so I would say the film was quite the success. The direction is mediocre and the acting is terrible and the soundtrack is comical. Overall, I would only suggest this for those who like bad action films or have nothing to do and watch a good deal of movies online.

Here is the trailer

Here is the review that I wrote for Netflix. One out of five people found it helpful.

The Octagon (1980)

To begin, the best line in the film comes from Lee Van Cleef: “Damn I sure feel better after killing that son of a bitch.” The Octagon is an interesting film. Not because it is actually good, but because it has a strange take on terrorism. According to the film, terrorists are fanatical, one dimensional morons that are actually ninjas. At least Eric Karson’s film contains a moniker of truth regarding mercenary groups in Central and South America; some groups (akin to Blackwater nowadays) did go around killing people in those regions. Using corporate and American dollars, many people incited coups, killed union organizers, and so forth. Yet The Octagon does not exactly condemn this activity, only at times regarding one approach to espionage of third world nations as inferior to another. The plot is simple enough: Chuck Norris is a notorious butt kicker who is looking for a secret ninja school responsible for a bunch of deaths. His best friend gets mixed up with the ninjas, Norris kills a bunch of people, and there is lots of fighting. It took me a few minutes to figure out where the film takes place and I could only do this by looking at the license plates. The dialogue is absurd, relying on confusing one liners and convoluted snappy exchanges between characters. However, all this works for the benefit of the film, making it cheesy, funny, and a great example of how America is truly a nation of excess. This film is an example of capitalism gone wrong – this should never have been made. The fact that it exists proves that American cinema can truly detract from the legitimacy of the medium. Nonetheless, this should not stop any fan of terrible action films from watching. Just be ready for a silly, highly macho ride through ninja fantasyland.

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