Kevin: Internationally respected martial artist who faced off against Bruce Lee, proud patriot who skydived with former President George H.W. Bush, poster boy for the late great Cannon studios, and beloved Internet meme for millennials too young to remember his movies, Chuck Norris is a true action renaissance man, which is why today we are raising a glass to toast him on his 77th birthday. Born in Oklahoma and trained in martial arts during an Air Force stint in South Korea, our boy Chuck has come a long way since his debut in Dean Martin’s Matt Helm film “The Wrecking Crew,” where his only bit of action is a slow leg kick and then being easily defeated by a surely inebriated Martin:
However his true introduction to audiences was “Way of the Dragon,” in which Chuck held his own in an epic fight against Bruce Lee while also demonstrating the disadvantage of having a lot of body hair:
While Chuck got bigger roles in more prominent movies through the late-1970’s and early 80’s, for most of us he is best remembered for his output with Cannon, starting with POW rescue flick “Missing in Action”, which beat “Rambo: First Blood Part 2” to theaters by a year:
The next year he gave us “Invasion USA,” in which he demonstrated that yes, rocket launchers are perfectly good close-quarter-combat weapons …
While he followed that up with “Delta Force,” which was loosely based on the real-life hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985 (the “loosely” parts are pretty much any time Chuck is killing Arab terrorists with a missile-firing motorcycle).
While no one would exactly call his Cannon output “good” (more like “awesome”!), during this time he did manage to sneak in a movie that actually got a rave review from none other than Roger Ebert, “Code of Silence,” directed by future “Above the Law,” “Under Siege,” and “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis:
Few actors could maintain that kind of quality, and Chuck sure wasn’t one of them, leading to increasingly drab movies like “Hero and the Terror” and “Top Dog” …
… and Chuck’s eventual turn to TV with CBS Saturday night 90’s mainstay “Walker, Texas Ranger.” It’s hard to remember any one particular plot of a “Walker” episode; 80 percent of the show seemed to consist of Walker going into a bar looking for information on a random suspect, and everyone in the bar deciding to risk a long prison sentence to try and beat up the armed federal officer even though they literally have no reason to do so.
But if nothing else, in the episode “Special Witness,” in which Walker has to protect a girl with Down Syndrome who has witnessed an assassination, “Walker” did give us all an incredible gift: a fight scene between a years-past-their-primes Norris and Gary Busey:
While it obviously can’t compare to that awesomeness, for his birthday TGD humbly presents Norris with our review of his surprisingly not-bad “Missing in Action.” It’s literally the least we could do. So happy birthday big guy, we’ll blow out a candle for you.