Blu-ray Review: Good Guys Wear Black | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, June 8th, 2023  

Good Guys Wear Black

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Aug 15, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A top-secret deal sends a unit of America’s elite commandos deep into the Vietcong territory. When the mission goes sideways and half the squad is killed, their heroic leader, Major John T. Booker (Chuck Norris), knows they’ve been set up. But by whom, and for what reason? It’s a question that goes unanswered, even after Booker leads his surviving men out of the deadly jungle.

Fast forward a few years, and Booker’s now living in California, teaching political science at UCLA and moonlighting as (of course) a race car driver. His super-cool new lifestyle is interrupted by a comely young reporter, Margaret (Fatal Attraction’s Anne Archer), who acts as if she just wants into Booker’s pants—but soon reveals that she knows possibly more than anyone about that mission that went down bad all those years ago. Her timing is impeccable, too, as someone’s hunting down and snuffing out the unit’s remaining survivors. Booker has no choice but to attempt to save his brothers-in-arms one more time—and get to the bottom of an old, wartime mystery.

Good Guys Wear Black (1978) came at a relatively early juncture in Chuck Norris’ Hollywood career, when the former karate champion was looking to transition from the ring to the screen. Adapted from a story concocted by Norris and one of his martial arts students, he shopped the idea around to producers with little luck until reaching Mar Vista, who were willing to take a shot on the low-budget picture based on Norris’ fame as a karate champ alone. Building upon the success of the prior year’s Breaker! Breaker! (1977), Good Guys Wear Black was a noticeably larger feature, with a plot of intrigue that spanned years and continents, and could be traced all the way to the top of American politics. The action is bigger, too: from cars speeding over Los Angeles highways, to a memorable set piece on the old, Olympic ski slopes of Lake Tahoe.

A sizeable hit, Good Guys Wear Black established a formula that would serve Norris’ career well for the next few years, until signing his Cannon deal. Although this was only his second starring role, Norris had essentially already peaked in terms of his acting ability—take that as you will. (His reaction to finding both a lover and an old friend dead in the space of minutes is little more than an angry grunt.) But, we watch Chuck Norris movies for the action, and on that front Good Guys delivers. A good supporting cast helps matters, including Dana Andrews, James Franciscus, Chuck’s future Missing in Action 2 nemesis Soon-Tek Oh, and a comic cameo by Jim Backus—“the millionaire” from Gilligan’s Island.

Kino Lorber’s Special Edition Blu-ray includes a ton of trailers for other Chuck flicks, some TV and radio spots for Good Guys Wear Black, a newly-recorded commentary by action experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, and a pair of archival featurettes involving director Ted Post, who passed away in 2013. While Good Guys Wear Black may not be our favorite from KLSC’s latest trio of Norris releases, it’s a solid, late ‘70s action flick—and a worthy pick-up for anyone else who enjoys Norris’ brand of butt-kicking.



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