‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie

Shame on anyone who actually likes this exploitative piece of escapist crap

‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie ‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie

Uncategorized July 31, 2013 2

Chuck Norris ends negotiations. MGM capture ‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie Shame on anyone who actually likes this exploitative... ‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie
Chuck Norris ends negotiations. MGM capture

‘The Delta Force’ is a Pornographic Embarrassment of a Movie

Shame on anyone who actually likes this exploitative piece of escapist crap

Terrorist airplane hijackers force a terrified flight attendant to pick out the Jewish passengers using the passports they’ve collected. She refuses and the villain demands to know why.

“But can’t you see,” she wails, “that I’m German?”

It’s a moment of maudlin melodrama straight out of a dime store novel — ‘80s popcorn cinema at its worst. The moment does not stand alone, but is lost in a celluloid sea of overacting, explosions and machismo. This is Chuck Norris’ world, after all, and we’re lucky he’s here to protect us.

This is The Delta Force. And it’s among the worst war movies ever made.

Watch with mounting incredulity as:

A flight leaving Athens is hijacked by two men wielding grenades — a third was arrested in the airport before he could board. The plane is diverted to Beirut and refueled before flying to Algiers, where the bad guys are joined by 12 of their comrades.

The hijackers beat one of their hostages, a Navy seaman, with an armrest before putting a round in his head and tossing him from the plane.

A press conference is held and the pilot of the doomed flight wears an idiot grin while leaning out of the window of the cockpit while a terrorist holds a gun to his head.

Then Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris take care of business. They’re members of Delta Force — never mind their characters’ names — and they unleash the full fury of America’s Special Operations Forces on some terrorist ass. Buildings explode. Men burn. Chuck Norris stops a convoy of terrorists with the aid of a motorcycle that spews missiles.

Hostages are rescued, the good guys win and the bad guys are punished.

It’s tripe. A forgettable relic of jingoistic era we’re better off remembering with disdain … or simply forgetting. Except so much of it is true. So much of it actually happened.

Which of course makes the movie way, way worse.

Norris burns out the threat. MGM capture

Take ‘em down!

In the summer of 1985, two men armed with grenades and guns took control of TWA Flight 847 as it flew out of Athens. A third hijacker was late for the boarding and was arrested. The flight was diverted to Beirut, where it refueled and flew to Algiers to take on a group of 12 more armed men, including the man previously arrested in Athens, if you can believe that.

A German-American flight attendant was asked to single out the Jewish and American passengers. Navy diver Robert Stethem was beaten with an armrest, shot in the head and dumped on the tarmac. Flight 847 returned to Beirut. The flight crew shut down two of the engines and convinced the terrorists that the plane would no longer fly. After an 18-day standoff in the plane, all the passengers were released and the men responsible escaped.

Less than a year after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, Delta Force was unleashed on audiences. It spawned two God-awful sequels.

It isn’t hard to see why. Delta Force is a pornographic, exploitative revenge fantasy. One that tells a story just close enough to the truth to remind people what they saw on the news not long ago. A movie that dumps complicated geopolitics and the motivations of the actual event in favor of a cops-and-robbers shoot-’em-up. A movie that plays as an insult to the memory of the actual event.

Delta Force opens on a helicopter exploding in the middle of the desert. It’s Operation Eagle Claw, the failed U.S. military operation to end the Iranian hostage crisis. We follow Delta Force fleeing Tehran. Chuck Norris stews as the helicopters flee the aborted mission.

“We told them it was too dangerous to launch this operation at night,” Norris says.

“They thought their plan was better,” Marvin shrugs.

“I spent five years in in Vietnam watching them doing the planning and us the dying. Well, I’m resigning when I get back,” Norris says.

Press conference gone bad. MGM capture

The worst of the exploitation films?

But he can’t stay out. Not when five years later he sees the hijacking of TWA Flight 282 on television. He knows his old buddies will be there to stop to it. Here’s his chance to exact revenge on the Islamic militants he never got a chance to fight before and the top brass he blames for the blunders in Iran.

“I demand negotiations, American! Do you hear me?” one of terrorist leaders screams through a radio at Chuck Norris after Norris murdered dozens of faceless enemies. Norris uzis the radio before quipping, “Loud and clear.”


The real life Delta Force stood by during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Reagan declined to greenlight their operation. The unnamed, unseen president in the universe of Delta Force has no such problem.

The politics of the movies’ villains are confused, to put it generously. They’re based in Lebanon and have ties to its military in some way that’s never made clear. No demands are ever made; they want only to cause chaos and kill Jews and Americans. Posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini are plastered on the every wall of the villains’ various lairs.

In the movie’s third act the hijackers make contact with Iran’s supreme leader in an attempt to barter the hostages for entry into Iran. The hijackers’ tenuous connection to the ayatollah provides a bogeyman for the audience to latch onto, the specter of a grand architect behind the chaos. But that doesn’t really matter. We’re really just here to watch Norris kill baddies.

And boy does he. All of them. Norris and his team redeem themselves. They get to be heroes. They bring everyone home. The film ends, literally, with the plane filled with Delta Force and rescued hostages drinking Budweiser and singing “America the Beautiful.” All of the bad guys are dead. No loose ends.

Face it, this is pornography, its violence meant to evoke a strong emotional reaction — a lust for revenge, and a desire to rewrite history. It’s the daydream of an adolescent who, while watching coverage of the actual event, thought it would be awesome if Chuck Norris could just go in there and blow everyone away.

More than 10 years after 9/11, audiences are still sensitive to movies that exploit its imagery. Moviegoers were uncomfortable while Perry White walked around a desolate metropolis that resembled post-attack New York in this summer’s Man of Steel.

Delta Force had no such qualms about exploitation. No respect is paid to the event that inspired the film. Again, the hijacking was not a year old when the movie was released. The men responsible were still at large.

Can you imagine a blockbuster coming out during the holiday season of 2002 starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as he tore through the landscape of Afghanistan, pulling bearded men from holes and executing them?

Exploiting a tragedy. MGM capture

The real Flight 847

Uli Dickerson was born in Prague, but grew up in Germany. She was a flight attendant aboard 847. The hijackers spoke poor English, but excellent German. Dickerson was able to translate for them and help keep the hostages calm.

She negotiated the release of elderly women and children during the plane’s first landing in Beirut. Later, when the ground crew in Algiers refused to refuel the plane unless they were paid, she offered up her personal credit card and allowed it to be charged $5,500 dollars for the cost of the fuel.

She was ordered to collect the passports of the passengers and forced to single out the Jewish passengers. She hid the passports that would have damned her fellow hostages. Uli Dickerson saved lives.

The Delta Force version of events has the Dickerson character caving to pressure and giving up the Jewish passengers.

John Testrake, the pilot of the plane, sat in a cockpit for over two weeks while he was threatened and his fellow passengers and crew were harassed and beaten. He calmly stood up to the hijackers and helped shut down the engines, grounding the plane in Beirut. He was calm in the face of danger. John Testrake saved lives.

But his Delta Force analogue sweats passively and waits to be rescued.

Then there was Robert Dean Stethem, a steelworker for the Navy who was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart after his murder by the terrorists.

Delta Force is not above exploiting the brutal images of his death to sell tickets. Less than a year later. Remember that. This was less than a year after his murder.

All war films are exploitation films. They mine terrifying and violent historical events for entertainment. At their best they provide a background for a compelling story, help us make sense of historical events or contribute to our national mythos. At their worst these exploitation films are violent crap meant that evoke tragedy to make a quick buck and provoke an emotional reaction the movie hasn’t earned.

Delta Force is the latter, a childish revenge fantasy that tells us nothing, barely entertains and exists solely to make a quick buck. It’s one of the worst war movies ever made.

Uli Dickerson, John Testrake, Robert Dean Stethem and everyone else aboard TWA Flight 847 deserve better.

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