Directed By: Aaron Norris
Screenplay By: Lee Reynolds
Based upon characters created by John Bruner & Menahem Golan
Produced By: Yoram Globus, Christopher Pearce
Cast: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, John P. Ryan, Begonia Plaza, Paul Perri, Mark Margolis
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes
Review Date: December 6, 2010
From 1979-1993, the Cannon Group — headed by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus — released a string of surprisingly successful low-budget films. They made stars of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, they lured bigger stars like Sylvester Stallone and Charles Bronson into their company, and they glommed onto huge franchise properties like Masters of the Universe, Superman, and Spider-Man. Despite the financial success of the films, the company almost always ran at a loss, and Cannon’s insistence on the lowest possible budget yielded bizarre but uniquely charming films. The goal of Cannon Corner is to pay homage to these films.
Cota killed her husband in front of her, then he killed her sick baby and used the baby’s corpse to smuggle cocaine, and then he raped her. — General Taylor (John P. Ryan)
Yes, the Cannon Group is back in all its silly glory. After last week’s viewing of the surprisingly good The Delta Force, which may be as close as Menahem Golan ever got to a real passion project, it’s time for the absurd cash-in of a sequel: Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, alternately known as Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold, even though neither title makes sense in the context of the film (it takes place in San Carlos, a fictional South American country; neither “Colombia” nor “Operation Stranglehold” are ever mentioned in the film).
Despite tossing the word “connection” into the title, the film has no connection to the first film aside from its main character, Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris). Whereas the first film bordered on realistic with its sweaty, suspenseful depiction of a skyjacking and its gritty, unpleasant Israel locations, the sequel takes place in the over-the-top world of James Bond villains who live in palatial estates and build gas chambers into their conference rooms, so they can watch prisoners choke to death on gas through a thick pane of glass.
Billy Drago plays the villain, drug kingpin Ramón Cota, as a drugged-out, vaguely effeminate fop who shares a spiritual kinship with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. As a villain, he’s too silly to instill the fear or hatred director Aaron Norris desires, which might be why the script piles on an unending number of reasons to hate him. From the quote that opened this review to the sniveling smile he wears throughout the farce of a trial that opens the film, Cota is supposed to be the baddest of all asses. I had a very hard time taking him seriously, which is the film’s most infuriating problem. His partner in crime, General Olmedo, is played by the always-reliable Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad fans will know him as Tuco’s bell-ringing invalid Tio). Margolis is one of those actors who can instill terror without much more than a sidelong glance. He’s infinitely more effective as a villain but chronically underused here.
The plot is about as simple as you’d expect: General Taylor (John P. Ryan, in a scenery-chewing performance in which he channels a goofier version of George C. Scott’s Patton — so, in other words, Scott’s Buck Turgidson) sends McCoy and his partner, Bobby Chavez (Paul Perri), to San Carlos to capture Cota so he can stand trial for drug crimes in the United States. He’s released on a $10 million bail, which the movie portrays as an obscene miscarriage of justice (while ignoring the fact that it’s a violation of international law to retrieve a criminal in a country with no extradition treaty to stand trial for crimes he technically oversaw on foreign soil, never personally committing a crime in the U.S.). Cota quickly pays the bail and returns to San Carlos, but not before he and some men gun down Chavez’s pregnant wife and teen basketball star son.
Enraged, Chavez takes an unauthorized solo trip to San Carlos to take down Cota. He fails spectacularly, ending up in Cota’s conference room gas chamber, choking to death on acrid gas while Cota’s apparent board of directors chuckle gleefully. Needless to say, now that it’s personal for the guy we’re supposed to care about, McCoy finally springs into action. An endless, slow-motion training montage in which McCoy performs martial-arts moves on a team of men (who seem to get nothing out of it beyond learning how to take a punch) precedes McCoy’s trip to San Carlos. He sneaks into the so-called “Green Zone” and meets up with his contact, Quiquina (Begonia Plaza). Cota turned her into his sex slave after killing her husband and sick baby, so she’s obviously pretty eager to join forces with people who want to take Cota down. Her role in the movie is marginal, however. Once McCoy gets into Cota’s compound, it’s pretty much a hour-long orgy of gunfights, explosions, martial-arts fisticuffs, and a bizarre sequence in which McCoy and Cota are tossed about through the jungle while suspended in harnesses attached to General Taylor’s helicopter.
Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection delivers on two enjoyable fronts: stupidity and fun. However, it never reaches the transcendent, surreal joy of a film like Death Wish 3, owing in large part to Norris’s direction. Most Cannon films suffer from poor staging and sloppy filmmaking. I can and often do forgive that, because that’s usually part of the charm of the films. The problem here is Norris’s tendency to linger for far too long on moments that are not as enthralling as he seems to think. The aforementioned training montage, the harnesses, McCoy’s bizarre skydiving antics (which are not nearly as impressive as the following year’s Point Break — if that film was 100% pure adrenaline, this one is 80% adrenaline cut with baby laxative), and use of slow-motion that even Zack Snyder would consider excessive. Pretty much every sequence would be fine if it were half as long.
Compounding this problem is Drago’s performance, which doesn’t create the ominous threat it should. Even the crassest action-star vehicle makes some attempt to keep the stakes high for its hero, usually by depicting an increasingly threatening, increasingly insane villain. In contrast, Cota seems weaker and weaker as the film goes on. Maybe that was Norris’s intent, but it falls flat dramatically. The only satisfying moment involving Cota is when Quiquina goes after him with his own machete. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end well for Quiquina, and by extension doesn’t end well for the audience.
Overall, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection is a deeply flawed film that contains a few decent moments but mostly falls flat. You won’t miss anything by skipping it, but it does have a few highlights: assassins dressed as clowns shooting up a van full of DEA agents during Rio De Janeiro’s Carnival, and the following clip, which features what might be my favorite line delivery in any film, ever:
D. B. Bates is a freelance script reader and writer.