There are many movie icons of the 80s but few truly peaked then the way Chuck Norris did. Sure, there’s his Walker, Texas Ranger era of awkward denim high kicks, but you never really saw him go to town on anyone. Nowadays he’s shilling for Total Gyms and politics instead of doing what he did best: kicking the shit out of piss-poor excuses for ninjas.
The Octagon sets pretty high expectations but delivers so very little. The movie certainly opens promisingly, with two women pushing a baby carriage executing the bloody, bullet-ridden assassination of an ambassador. Turns out one of them is a guy in drag, there’s a hidden uzi in the baby carriage. Nice. Now, you won’t catch me wearing a wig just to get to Ryu, but I admire the dedication to the kill.
We next meet Norris as the generically named Scott James, a karate world champion. After an awkward date, he and the girl are ambushed at her home by ninjas. Extremely incompetent ninjas. This is the first of many times we get to hear James whisper to himself incredibly obvious things like “there’s someone heeeeeereee…” and “Ninja… it hassss to beeee…” Yeah, pretty much everyone but Stevie Wonder would have figured that one out.
The plot, or what passes for one, is that publishing heiress Justine is being targeted by ninja assassins for her politics, or something, it’s never really explained. She wants James as her bodyguard but he never takes the job. He just keeps brushing her off until a poison dart finally takes her out.
To save you some time, Norris only fights 3 more times in the movie and they all pretty much suck. The rest of the time you’re watching people hassling him to get off his lazy ass and go after his adoptive brother, Seikura, who is the one training terrorists of all stripes in the ways of the ninja.
When we’re not wasting time following Norris around, we’re shown how pathetically sad this ninja training camp is. Some examples:
One trainee talks out of turn and is told to step forward and right on top of a glaringly obvious trap door. What an idiot. The fact that he isn’t immediately killed is embarrassing. (They do promise to murder the family of anyone who is caught, so at least that shows some balls.)
The new recruits stare in awe of a sai’s ability to skewer a cantaloupe.
With new recruits due the next day, the current class has to be graduated or there won’t be facilities. Really? Is this a ninja diploma mill?
The female ninja trainee who leads Norris to the camp for the final confrontation confesses that she’s never killed or even hurt anyone. Man, talk about low standards.
When Norris finally confronts his brother, the trainees rebel and somehow manage to hold their own against the experienced ninjas training them who are already armed. Pathetic.
This movie is like watching Daddy Day Camp for ninjas. I’d cut off my other arm just to make it stop. And, even then, I’d still be able to kill the best they had to offer.