Masterpiece Theater returns to Last Movie Outpost. Mysterious Outposter DwC, one who lurks among you, has turned his deep thinking and critical analysis skills to the work of Chuck Norris and has settled upon Silent Rage as the recipient of his particular brand of evaluation. Last time, he found new depths in Hell Of The Living Dead. How will Chuck Norris fare?
Do you have something you want to share with your fellow Outposters? See your name in lights, gain bragging rights and a sense of superiority by sending it into us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is DwC.
Directed by Michael Miller. Starring Chuck Norris. This analysis will contain spoilers.
After a severely disturbed man named John Kirby suffers a complete psychological breakdown and murders two people, Sheriff Chuck Norris is called in to apprehend him. After being subdued and placed in a police car, Kirby breaks free and is mortally wounded by the other officers on site. Kirby is taken to a hospital/medical institute where surgery is performed but, he appears to succumb to his wounds.
That is until Dr. Spires (Stephen Keats) and Dr. Vaughn (William Finley) administer an experimental cellular regeneration serum against the wishes of Kirby’s psychiatrist, Dr. Halman (Ron Silver), who argues that the serum should not be tested on someone as mentally deranged as Kirby.
The serum works but, it alters Kirby’s mind, making him even more psychotic, and physically stronger, and giving him the ability to immediately heal from all injuries. In the meantime, Sheriff Chuck Norris rekindles a romance with Alison (Toni Kalem), who happens to be Dr. Halman’s sister. Believing John Kirby died from his injuries, Chuck Norris goes about the everyday duties of a small-town sheriff, like training his rookie deputy, Charlie, and singlehandedly beating up an entire biker gang.
Eventually, Kirby escapes and goes on a killing spree, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to the final showdown between an inhuman, unstoppable killing machine, and John Kirby.
Oceans of ink have been put to a forest of paper in infinite attempts to analyze the unparalleled acting ability of Chuck Norris. I will try to avoid that here, because how many different ways can it be said that Chuck Norris is the greatest thespian that ever lived?
Instead, this analysis will focus on the narrative structure and themes present in this overlooked masterpiece from 1982. The opening scene, in which John Kirby is awakened by a child with a toy machine gun to tell him he has a phone call, is nothing short of astounding. Here we have a mentally ill man staying in some sort of boarding house rather than receiving the care he needs in a hospital or institution.
This is briefly addressed by Dr. Halman later, but one does not need to possess the mental acumen of Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this man is living in these conditions due to the abhorrent state of mental health care in the 1980s. It is in this regard that John Kirby is truly a tragic character as these failures will lead him into the path of an enraged Chuck Norris.
After Kirby goes to the phone, we watch in real time a fantastically staged long-take scene as Kirby descends into total paranoid psychosis after begging Dr. Halman for help on the phone. As Kirby walks out the door the camera follows Mrs. Sims (Joyce Ingle) as she berates the children in the yard for making too much noise, and we see through the kitchen window as Kirby picks up an axe and starts to vigorously chop wood. As Mrs. Sims ushers the children out of the yard and house with demands they go to the local playground Kirby enters, and since the loud annoying kids are gone and he can’t kill them, he instead terrorizes, then brutally kills her. But not before he splits the face of another resident in half with his axe. Before she is killed, Mrs. Sims alerts a passing mail carrier with pleas to call the police.
Chuck Norris and Deputy Charlie are the first to arrive.
A fight ensues between the still physiologically normal but quite insane John Kirby and Chuck Norris that eventually spills out onto the street and into a field before Chuck Norris gets the upper hand and cuffs Kirby. Just as Dr. Halman arrives, Kirby breaks free of his bonds and assaults several officers before being gunned down.
Kirby is taken to the institute for surgery while Chuck Norris is examined for bruised ribs. In a bit of foreshadowing, Charlie comments on the highly advanced nature of the institute, and Chuck Norris’ doctor explains that they specialize in cellular biology, not often treating human patients, giving us another clue as to how the mentally ill are regarded in this institute.
We then meet the ambitious but unscrupulous Dr. Spires and the obedient Dr. Vaughn. As Kirby is stitched up after surgery it is obvious that he won’t live. So, Dr. Spires, in a scene that is far too close to the reality of the abusive treatment of the mentally ill, decides to experiment on him with a cellular regeneration serum he and the other doctors have been developing, despite the protestations of Dr. Halman. Initially, the serum fails, and Kirby is removed from life support. But when Halman leaves the room, Dr. Spires ups the dosage, turns the machines back on, and Kirby’s heart starts beating.
As Dr. Halman is telling Chuck Norris that Kirby is dead, Alison, whom Chuck Norris used to date, approaches and offers to give him a ride because Charlie took the police vehicle. After a brief reconciliation, she tells Chuck Norris that while they may be on friendly terms, that is going to be the extent of their relationship moving forward. Cut to Chuck Norris in bed with Alison.
The following day Chuck Norris meets Charlie for some lunch at the local diner just as some ruffians are giving Charlie a hard time. Chuck Norris tells them that his little town will “ruin those pretty teeth,” and the leader of the gang makes the mistake of putting his hands on Chuck Norris, who springs from his chair faster than a cheetah on speed and grabs the biker by the throat, humiliating him.
After the situation is diffused, Chuck Norris warns them all to leave town. The leader turns and tries to deliver an ominous threat that “this isn’t over.” Chuck Norris laughs.
Back at the hospital, Dr. Spires and Dr. Vaughn reveal to Dr. Halman the results of their experiments on Kirby. Not only is he still alive, but deep cuts to his chest created with a razor-sharp scalpel heal in seconds. Dr. Halman demands a full gamut of tests, which reveal the molecular and cellular structure of Kirby’s brain has been so drastically altered from the serum it is now barely recognizable as human.
Kirby awakens as a heated argument erupts between Spires and Halman and he hears Halman declare that Kirby is better off dead. The argument escalates until Dr. Halman is fired by Dr. Spires.
In the next scene, we are treated to some wonderful character building when Charlie tells Chuck Norris that he left something out of his application for deputy, which he feels guilty about. He then recounts a story of the time when he was six years old and accidentally killed his new puppy by putting it in the deep freezer to dry it off after giving it a wash.
This scene shows us how innocent and kind-hearted Charlie is, and we wonder if he is cut out for police work. Just as Charlie is wrapping up his heartwarming story about the puppy he killed, Chuck Norris, ever alert to the presence of trouble, sees the motorcycles belonging to the bikers lined up outside of a local bar. Upon entering they discover the owner of the bar tied to a pole with a noose around his neck, while the entire drunken gang runs roughshod about the place. Not realizing who has just walked into the bar, the gang members begin taunting and laughing at Charlie and Chuck Norris, while a woman of loose morals begins to tease Charlie by exposing her breasts.
Chuck Norris tells Charlie to go out to the vehicle to call for backup, as Chuck Norris will not be distracted by bare breasts when there’s some ass kicking that needs a doin’. What follows may seem to be a superfluous action scene shoehorned into the film to showcase the martial arts skills of Chuck Norris but, this is incorrect; while no scene in which Chuck Norris beats up a large group of people is superfluous, we also get some more brilliant foreshadowing when the gang leader tells the biggest, baddest dude in the gang to “break his damn back.” This big fella proceeds to put Chuck Norris in the exact same bear hug that will later put an end to poor Charlie.
In this case, however, after pretending for a couple of seconds that this is causing him discomfort, Chuck Norris delivers a double chop to the ears and escapes. He then uses every single thing in the bar as a weapon, except his gun or the dozen or so knives dropped by the gang of course, to destroy them all. Fists, feet, a pool cue, and the bar itself will be used to inflict pain. He even uses an unconscious biker as a weapon to knock out another biker.
After throwing a man through the door and breaking his face in the process, Chuck Norris turns to the leader. “You’re next,” he says (there’s a rumor that the stuntman playing the biker in this scene actually wet his pants when Chuck Norris pointed at him. Since there is no way to confirm if this is true, we are forced to assume it is). Thinking he can escape Chuck Norris on his motorcycle that is conveniently parked inside the bar, he starts to drive off, only to be used as a baseball by a stick-wielding Chuck Norris. His work now done, Chuck Norris sees no need to arrest these men or to rescue the bartender who is still in grave danger with a noose around his neck somewhere in the bar.
Chuck Norris doesn’t care for red tape.
Back at Chuck Norris’ house, Alison pays a visit and after talking for a bit the two decide to get back together. They celebrate this decision by having sex for the second time in twenty-four hours, after which Chuck Norris asks her if she’d like to get away for a few days. Alison, now pregnant with octuplets, agrees to go on a trip to the mountains with Chuck Norris. First, she must go to her brothers to pack some outdoorsy gear but, unbeknownst to them, John Kirby has escaped the institute and is none too pleased that Dr. Halman said he should die.
He goes to Halman’s house where a vicious fight ensues, leaving Kirby shot multiple times and thrown down a flight of stairs but his regenerative abilities give him the advantage and he eventually kills Dr. Halman. Just then his wife Nancy Halman comes home with pizza and finds her husband’s body hanging from a door. Kirby shows himself and a game of cat and mouse ensues. Nancy gets away, finds a place to hide, and when she thinks Kirby has left the house, she emerges only to have him jump from the shadows.
He grabs her by the face and slams her head against the wall with brutalizing force, killing her instantly. In preparation for her trip to Mt. Norris, Alison arrives at her brother’s house and discovers the corpses. She is about to be attacked when Chuck Norris and the police arrive.
Kirby, probably having heard about the bikers getting destroyed at the local bar, runs the fuck away to the institute, where he is discovered by Dr. Spires and Dr. Vaughn. Vaughn sees the blood and bullet holes in Kirby’s clothes and realizes he has killed someone. Finally, Vaughn has had enough, and he suggests that Kirby be exterminated. Dr. Spires responds to this suggestion with the most telling line in the entire film:
“I don’t care if he killed 100 people. We are scientists not moralists.”
This reviewer wonders how many ‘scientists’ have privately thought this very sentiment to themselves. Dr. Vaughn, no longer the obedient assistant, decides to take matters into his own hands and injects a powerful acid directly into Kirby’s jugular vein. Thinking this has killed him, Dr. Vaughn starts out of the hospital only to be chased down by Kirby and get acid injected into his own jugular.
Dr. Spires finds his colleague’s body and realizes things are beyond his control, so he goes to his office and pours himself a nice bourbon, as anyone in this situation would. Kirby enters the office where Spires tries to talk to him, explaining what they have accomplished together. Kirby looks as if he may understand for a brief moment, before snapping Dr. Spires’ neck and killing him.
The metaphor here is obvious; Dr. Frankenstein has been destroyed by the monster he created. Although it can be argued this monster was created long before the serum by the entire healthcare system, not Dr. Spires. Going back to what I said earlier, Kirby is a tragic character. How does one not feel pity for a man who is on a collision course with Chuck Norris, even a man with superhuman strength and freakish healing abilities?
Because Alison is not able to identify Kirby and Chuck Norris is not aware that Kirby is alive, he instructs Charlie to take her straight to the institute while he goes to the coroner’s office. As Charlie, ever the sweetheart, is comforting Alison with milk and cookies, they hear a commotion in the hall. It’s Kirby killing an institute worker.
As Charlie tries to apprehend Kirby a struggle ensues and Charlie screams at Alison to run away, saving her life. It comes at a cost however as Charlie is mortally wounded when Kirby puts him in bear hug, crushing his spine. While the viewer is saddened, puppies everywhere breathe a sigh of relief. After an alert over the radio, Chuck Norris arrives to find several dead security guards and orderlies before eventually discovering his loyal deputy Charlie, barely clinging to life. Chuck Norris embraces the young man and tells him he’s going to be OK.
The only thing Charlie can muster as his last words are: “He hurt me, Chuck Norris… He hurt me bad” before slipping away. At the start of this analysis, I promised I would not discuss the remarkable acting skills possessed by Chuck Norris. However, it would be irresponsible of me to not address his performance during this scene. The range of emotion on display is nothing short of flabbergasting.
The pain on his face as Charlie succumbs to his injuries and the way he refuses for a moment, tears almost welling up in his eyes, to look at Charlie’s face when he knows he is gone is absolutely soul-crushing. But what comes next must be seen to be believed. The look on Chuck Norris’ face when he stands up and starts down the hall to avenge Charlie is the most terrifying thing this reviewer has ever seen, not just in film, but in life. It’s a look that could freeze fire. Sometimes, when revisiting this film, I look away from the television for fear that Chuck Norris may in reality be coming for me, not John Kirby. I just got shivers.
Alison leaves the room she was hiding in and tries to make her way out of the institute, but Kirby finds her and gives chase. Either Alison’s screams or his own psychic abilities alert Chuck Norris, who arrives just in time to find Kirby toying with her and shoots him multiple times, the final bullet sends Kirby through the window and several floors down to the parking lot pavement. Chuck Norris, thinking Kirby is dead, peers out the window in disappointment because he didn’t get to pulverize into mush, this man who killed his deputy. When he inspects the body, however, Kirby awakens fully healed. And it’s on. After a brief scuffle, Alison hits Kirby with the police truck, picks up Chuck Norris, and they drive off with Kirby hanging onto the back of the vehicle T-1000 style.
He climbs in the back just as Alison and Chuck Norris jump out, leaving him to be blown up when the out-of-control Chevy SUV crashes and flips over. Covered in flames and screaming in pan, Kirby runs into the lake. When he emerges from the murky water, Chuck Norris tells Alison to get away because shit is about to go down. After a brutal fight, Chuck Norris ends it with several thunderous roundhouse kicks to the head, and multiple punches to the back of the face, then he scoops Kirby up with a textbook fireman’s carry and tosses him into the well he just created when he punched the earth.
There is a deleted scene in which Chuck Norris pulls down his pants and urinates into the well but unfortunately, it has been lost.
With Chuck Norris victorious, he and Alison head to the hospital so she can give birth. However, proving that you can’t just lock the mentally ill into a dark hole and hope the problem goes away, the camera pans down into the depths, and John Kirby launches himself up out of the water. The image freezes, and the credits roll.
This is a film that attempts to be many things. And it succeeds at being all of them: it’s a nail-biting horror film, a rollicking action film, a scathing critique of the way the mentally ill are treated, a satirical deconstruction of the American healthcare system in general, and a film in which many people are kicked in the face by Chuck Norris.
Michael Miller directs with the skill of a true auteur, dialing up the tension with several impressive long takes and an excellent score. It’s a truly remarkable, monumental cinematic achievement. The performances from everyone who is not Chuck Norris are stellar, which is not surprising considering acting against a powerhouse like Chuck Norris would elevate anyone’s craft.
Brian Libby especially, who you may know as the guy who told Morgan Freeman “Red, I believe you’re talking out of your ass” in The Shawshank Redemption, plays a very menacing killer. The only flaw within this film is that somehow, God only knows why, we never got that sequel the cliffhanger ending promised.
14 roundhouse kicks out of 10.
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