The Film: 3/5
Colonel Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris), the Delta Force’s best commando, and his trusted friend and partner Major Bobby Chavez (Paul Perri) are dispatched on the order of General Taylor (John P. Ryan) to the fictional South American nation of San Carlos on a mission to make contact with a DEA agent deep under cover in the organization of drug lord (Ramon Cota). They end up bringing Cota back to the U.S. to stand trial for running a cocaine production and smuggling operation that has netted him billions and given him control over San Carlos and its impoverished populace. Unfortunately, Cota walks free on $10 million bail and then has Chavez’s wife and brother murdered. The grief-stricken Chavez heads back to San Carlos for some unsanctioned revenge on Cota against McCoy’s wishes, but he soon gets captured and murdered by the cocaine baron and his thugs, and three DEA agents including John Page (Richard Jaeckel) are taken hostage. Knowing that Cota must be brought to justice at all costs, Taylor orders McCoy to infiltrate Cota’s well-guarded compound in the mountains of San Carlos and rescue the agents before Cota has them executed. Cota himself isn’t the mission this time, but McCoy has other plans.
Delta Force 2 (often subtitled either The Columbian Connection or Operation Stranglehold) was one of the dying breaths expelled by the remains of the once mighty Cannon Films. The original had the distinction of being a profitable Cannon release at the box office and a solid hit on home video (I still have a copy of the Video Treasures VHS) and cable, but its belated sequel barely made a blip with moviegoers when it hit theaters at the tail end of the summer of 1990 when the likes of Total Recall and Die Hard 2 dominated. There may have been a time when slapping Chuck Norris’s grimacing, bearded visage on a poster was enough to guarantee that one of Cannon’s cheapjack patriotic chop schlocky flicks would bring the company a little profit, but those days were done. Cannon overlords Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had gone through an ugly and public corporate divorce that saw them start competing film distro outfits to make competing Lambada movies. The old company was dead, and Chuck the Beard’s future resided in direct-to-video cheapies, television stardom, and becoming one of the Republican Party’s favorite famous lunatic BFF’s.
From the elaborate sequence where a stakeout of Cota during a street costume ball leads to a bloody ambush and Richard Jaeckel looking really pissed, Delta Force 2 is a sweet Cannon vintage poured into a really cheap glass. Obvious budget cuts ensured that Norris would be the only big name in the movie and a lone wolf without a team of heavily-armed badasses ready to blow shit up for America to back him up this time around. Director Aaron Norris (Chuck’s brother) saves most of his production value for the explosive finale, but manages to whip up enough mid-range action sequences to string together into a threadbare narrative that would be too slight and cartoonish even for one of the recent G.I. Joe movies. However, it’s nowhere nearly enough to sustain the required momentum to keep the average viewer engaged for Delta’s 111-minute running time. There are far too many scenes of Cota being evil, McCoy training for the final mission, and the general in charge of the Delta Force bickering with San Carlos officials who want the Americans to stay out of their country and their affairs, and not enough character development. This leads to a busy first act, a sluggish second, and a third that never quite realizes when enough is enough.
In true Cannon fashion, the makers of this movie know well enough to have some happy Americans shot dead by the bad guys, because that makes the villains really villainous (as if the audience wasn’t already aware). Norris spends more time than he actually needs to establish just how bad Cota and his goon squad are. By the time McCoy goes into action, the deck against Cota is stacked so high that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would be baying for the drug lord’s blood. There isn’t much to the character beyond a malevolent smile and a slick, Steven Seagal-like ponytail that only makes you want to hate him more than you thought possible. Characters are introduced with the sole purpose of either being killed by McCoy or sacrificing their lives to help him. Potentially interesting subplots are set up and them promptly forgotten. Cannon productions were never known for their subtlety and nuance, but Delta Force 2 could have used a little to offset its narrative deficiencies and contrivances.
Director Norris brought in Billy Drago, a man born to play slimy villains with the social skills of a king cobra, to be the movie’s utterly hateful baddie Ramon Cota. If one of James Bond’s adversaries thought nothing of using the corpse of an infant to smuggle cocaine, he would look like Cota. Palestinian terrorists were no longer suitable bad guys for a Cannon superhero to battle, so Norris and screenwriter Lee Reynolds (Allen Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold) defaulted to the new preferred action movie villain of the late 80’s and early 90’s – the sleazy, amoral South American drug kingpin with a private army and a palatial estate for our heroes to blow to kingdom come in the finale. Drago tears into the role with grinningly malicious energy and glee but never expects hamming it up to pass for decent acting; Cota is pure evil, the kind of cold-blooded bastard who would give Tony Montana nightmares, and Drago has an absolute blast giving us an antagonist we love to hate and can’t wait to see splattered across the celluloid frame.
Chuck is Chuck, and he kicks ass and destroys property without displaying a hint of a single emotion. Poor guy never had enough charisma and presence to be a real movie star, but he always got the job done. His brother surrounds him with solid veteran actors like John P. Ryan, a great character actor reduced to working as one of Cannon’s stable of screen heavies in the late 80’s, and Richard Jaeckel putting in an honest day’s work and looking like they’re having a ball at the same time. Ryan in particular is a genuine pleasure to watch as the bombastic General Taylor, bouncing from delivering pompous speeches to the press to giving McCoy his orders to riding shotgun in a helicopter gunship during the final battle with the enthusiasm of a little kid seized by a sugar rush. Mark Margolis, best known to modern audiences as one of Darren Aronofsky’s most dependable supporting players, puts in a welcome appearance as a military strongman on Cota’s payroll. Director Norris delivers enough on the action front in the last hour to make Delta Force 2’s unevenly paced first half worth trudging through, all handsomely shot at American and Filipino locations by cinematographer Joao Fernandes (Deep Throat, Missing in Action) and energized by a brawny score composed by Frederic Talgorn (Robot Jox) that sounds like it’s ripping off Jerry Goldsmith’s far superior music for the first three Rambo movies, but only about half the time.
I knew this wasn’t going to be an eye-popping transfer, but Delta Force 2 looks even worse than I hoped in high-definition. Time has not been generous to the source elements used for the upgrade, and seeing the movie in 1080p only serves to call more attention to the flaws than they really needed. Colors are vivid and strong and the grain has been reduced to a pleasing minimum, but the print remains riddled with dirt, scratches, and the occasional stain that can be noticed during the third act. The transfer has been framed in the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, so fans should be happy about that at least. Kino’s Blu-ray presentation would have benefitted from a hearty 5.1 audio mix, but the 4-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack Delta Force 2 was released theatrically with has not been done the greatest justice by the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 option provided here. It’s okay for the most part, with the explosions and gunfire sounding boisterous and the Talgorn score given special care, but dialogue often sounds too low and garbled to be understood. Forceful when required, quiet when unnecessary. English subtitles have also been included.
The only extras are trailers for Delta Force 2 and two other Chuck Norris titles available from Kino Lorber – Hero & The Terror and Eye for an Eye.
If you love a good action movie made with energy and skill but not with brains and wit, Delta Force 2 might fit the bill. You’ll likely forget about it the moment it’s over, but at least it will give you a good time. It could have used a little editing though. Kino Lorber didn’t exactly go out of their way to give the movie a decent high-definition treatment, with a problematic transfer and a lack of worthwhile extras making this Blu-ray recommended only if you can get it cheap or used.