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Film / Code of Silence

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Code of Silence is a 1985 action movie directed by Andrew Davis and starring Chuck Norris and Dennis Farina.

During a police sting operation, mafia gang members stage a robbery of the Colombian cartel that leaves several high-ranking cartel members and undercover cops dead. A Mob War erupts between the two gangs as Sergeant Eddie Cusack tries to protect a young woman from becoming the cartel's target for revenge.

This film provides examples of:

  • Attack Drone: The Prowler, which feels more or less like a direct predecessor to RoboCop's ED-209. It first appears as a demonstration, and is later used by Cusack in the climax.
  • Big Bad: Luis Comacho, leader of the Comacho cartel.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When the police force find out Cusack is right about Cragie being a Corrupt Cop, they hurry off in full force to help him rescue Diana Luna from the Comachos. Subverted in that by the time they get to the warehouse, Cusack and the police drone already finished the fight.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The mob war ends, with most of the bad guys on both sides wiped out in the process. Diana Luna survives, although horribly scarred by what the Comachos did to her. Cragie is up on charges thanks to Kopalas admitting to the truth. On the other hand, a lot of innocent people are dead, the police has to answer for their covering up for Cragie's corrupt act, and there's no guarantee that Kopalas is going to be forgiven or trusted by other cops.
  • Blatant Lies: When Cusack calls for backup after testifying against a fellow detective, all the other police inform the dispatcher they're too busy when they're obviously not.
  • The Cartel: The Comachos are a Colombian drug syndicate involved in a Mob War with The Mafia.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An early scene at the police precinct shows a demonstration of a remote-controlled assault vehicle. Sure enough, it ends up getting used against the bad guys in the climactic showdown.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted. It's a familiar scene. A cop strolls into a bar looking for information and is forced into a fight. Oh and the cop here is played by Chuck Norris. Surely, we're about to see an epic, one-sided beatdown from which he'll emerge with barely a scratch? Nope! Cusack takes out a few guys with Norris' trademark roundhouse kicks and Taekwondo skill but the men catch on and he's quickly overwhelmed by sheer numbers and defeated, only leaving alive because the villain spared him. Even someone incredibly tough and skilled can be defeated when drastically outnumbered.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: The Big Bad rushes to kill Diana Luna, only to be felled by a long distance shot by Cusack. However he staggers to his feet and is about to kill Diana when Cusack appears behind him and shoots him dead.
  • Cutting the Knot: Cusack isn't initially impressed with the police robot during its demo run early in the movie. When he's questioned about how he wouldn't last against an unstoppable machine, Cusack swiftly pulls his gun on the robot's operator who drops the drone's remote control box out of fear.
  • Darker and Edgier: While it starts off as a standards Eighties cop action thriller, the subplot involving police cover-up of an unarmed teen getting shot delves into a topic most other cop movies of the era wouldn't touch. Many consider this Chuck Norris' best film as it allows him more depth to his character, allowing him to deal with a moral dilemma as well as physical combat.
  • Defective Detective: Detective Cragie is an older, alcoholic cop who is well-liked within the department, but covers up his accidental shooting of a teenager.
  • The Dragon: Victor, Luis's younger brother and second-in-command of the cartel.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Two thugs try to rob a bar. Only when they hear a chorus of gun cocks do they realize it's a bar where off-duty cops hang out.
  • The '80s
  • Everyone Is Armed: Two armed robbers attempt to hold up the bar where all the off-duty cops hang out. It does not end well.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Two thugs target a bar for an armed robbery gig. One of them was supposed to check it out, but didn't realize the bar is a popular hangout for off-duty cops. The second both robbers enter the bar, every cop there immediately sizes them up and are ready for the attempt.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rookie detective Kopalas who witnessed Cragie shooting an unarmed kid and planting a gun next to the body, is torn between telling the truth and abiding by the "Blue line" mentality of his fellow cops to never rat out one of their own. When it becomes clear that Cragie isn't worth it and that Cusack needs the police force to back his play against the Comachos, Kopalas admits to what he witnessed, turning the department against Cragie.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Comachos kidnap Diana Luna to force Sergeant Cusack to deliver mafia guy Tony Luna (Diana's father) to them. When Luna is killed along with his uncle (thus making the deal impossible, as the Colombians wanted him alive), Cusack arranges a fake hostage exchange so he can take out the whole Comacho gang single-handedly.
  • The Mafia: A mafia guy steals drugs and drug money from The Cartel, starting a Mob War.
  • Mafia Princess: Diana Luna. Also a Rebellious Princess because she doesn't want to have anything to do with her dad's criminal empire... which is what saves her from the massacre that wipes out the rest of her family. Even though the Mafia would consider her a "civilian", the Comachos do not respect that part of the mob culture and target her as well.
  • Meta Casting: Dennis Farina was still a serving police officer at the time, moonlighting as an actor.
  • Mirroring Factions: The Mafia's Omerta or blood oath of loyalty is compared to the Code of Silence that police use to protect their own inept or corrupt cops. Underscored by the side-story of Cragie's drunken shooting of an unarmed Latino teen during a drug bust gone wrong, and how the rest of the department treats Cusack when he crosses the "Blue line" and testifies against Cragie at a public hearing. Lampshaded by the gang lords whenever Cusack interrogates them or tries to talk them out of the impending gang war.
  • Mob War: A gang war breaks out between the Colombian Comacho mob and the Italian Luna mob after the Italians kill eight Colombians during a drug deal involving an undercover police officer.
  • Mood Whiplash: the movie goes between the standard, even light-hearted plot points of a cop thriller including an awesome fight between Cusack and a hitman atop an elevated train, but switches into the real-world politics of police brutality and the viciousness of the emerging drug cartels.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted. The guys in the bar fight initially attack one at a time but quickly catch on and rush Cusack all at once, rendering him helpless.
  • More Dakka: The Prowler is armed with two machine guns and rocket launchers, which is later used by Cusack in the final shootout.
  • No Kill like Overkill:
    • One of the reasons this movie goes into a darker territory than previous mob-based action movies. The rising drug cartels from Colombia like the Comachos do not care about who's a civilian and who's a mobster, unlike the Mafia: they will wipe out entire families to enact revenge.
    • The Prowler, when first presented, is pitched as a drone for police use... and it packs rocket launchers.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Cusack is at a party, he needs to make a phone call in the back. A group of yuppies, after just snorting some coke in the same room, metaphorically crap their pants when he answers the phone with "Sergeant Cusack". He's not interested in them, though.
  • One-Man Army: Zigzagged. Norris' character is your standard "unstoppable man of destruction" in the climax, taking out the entire Colombian cartel by himself (no one is willing to help him after he makes himself a pariah within the police department), but when he barges into their Bad Guy Bar earlier in the film to fist fight the whole gang, numbers take their toll.
  • Retirony: Brought up as a possibility when Cusack's original partner Det. Dorato (Dennis Farina) starts chatting up things the two of them can do as businessmen down in Florida or elsewhere. Dorato gets his leg broken during the opening drug bust gone wrong. Subverted in that Dorato survives, merely left out of most of the movie's action until the end... when he's the only cop to show up to save Cusack when Cusack goes it alone against the Comachos.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Mafia guy Tony Luna kills members of the Comacho cartel to steal their drugs, then flees to Michigan to lay low. The Comachos respond by killing Luna's family, who have nothing to do with his criminal dealings. This is because Tony killed the younger brother of the Comachos' leader in the robbery.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Comancho Colombian cartel is showcased as this, with its decision to kill anybody that inconveniences them.
  • Stupid Crooks: A pair of criminals try to hold up a bar they don't know is the local police precinct's hang-out place. The second they pull out their guns, about thirty off-duty officers present their own weapons.
    Dorato: I swear they're getting dumber by the year.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The fight in the bar shows how even a stone-cold badass with extensive martial arts training and skill is still just one man and doesn't have a chance against an entire room full of opponents as they can just rush him all at once. Cusack is quickly overpowered and only leaves the place alive on the villain's orders.
  • Token Good Cop: Downplayed. After Cusack reports incompetent veteran cop Cragie for accidentally shooting a civilian, only his partner Dorata is willing to help him until Cragie's guilty partner shames the rest of the precinct into changing their minds.
  • Zeerust: The remote-controlled police drone that Cusack hijacks when none of the real cops would back him up to rescue Diana Luna. While modern police do have remote robots for some high-risk duties, they still don't have anything as complex or heavily armored as that.