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Tales from “Watch Instantly”: The Octagon (1980)

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I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, but Chuck Norris is a badass. If you have been on the Internet at all these past few years, you have probably seen those “Chuck Norris Facts” that were quite the fad for awhile. Facts like “Chuck Norris can divide by 0” and “Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding” have turned the action film star turned fitness guru into a man of myth and legend. For the first installment of Tales From "Watch Instantly," I wanted to delve into the Norris myth by watching one of his films. The movie I picked? The Octagon, a 1980 film directed by Eric Carson.

Norris stars as Scott James, a former martial arts champion who has sworn to never fight again after hurting an opponent during a tournament. One night, while on a date with a ballet dancer, they are ambushed by ninjas at her house and she is killed. These ninjas, known as “terrorists” to the outside world, are being trained by Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita), who grew up with Scott and trained under the same master. It is up to Scott to defeat these ninjas and Seikura, with the help of his friend A.J. (Art Hindle) and a bevy of other uninteresting characters.

I grew up watching the film Sidekicks and have seen his fight with Bruce Lee over and over again on YouTube (define “social butterfly”), but I felt like that wasn’t enough to judge if Norris is deserving of all these facts and myths. After watching The Octagon… I really don’t think he is worthy of any of this. This movie is boring — I mean “paint drying on a wall” boring. Although there are action scenes aplenty, none of them are particularly inspired or entertaining. Instead of being a campy movie like I was hoping, I was instead forced (by myself, but I digress) to sit through one hour and 44 minutes of grass growing.

I didn’t expect the acting to be anywhere near Oscar caliber, and it’s not. Norris is not exactly what you would call a thespian; he’s a man who is good at kicking butt and the other stuff is just the garnish on the plate. However, there’s a difference between 'fun bad' and 'bad bad' acting, and this is just straight double bad. He delivers his lines like a wooden plank, and the movie has inner monologues that are whispered and echoed to the point of making you want to stick a pencil through your ears. The supporting cast does no better, and just further the horribleness of the whole picture. I will forgive the stupid plot because it’s an action movie, but it makes no sense and does not do anything to engage the audience (at least when the audience is made up of a bunch of me… scary thought).

That being said, there were a few things that kept me from completely going catatonic through my viewing. Some of the dialogue is dumb enough to reach that funny point I was hoping for the whole time. Lines like “if you’ve seen ninjas, you’ve seen ghosts” and “it makes me stupid, and you a whore” are hilarious and lines I could see myself throwing in everyday conversation because I am that damn unoriginal. Also, the movie features a quick appearance by Ernie Hudson, and seeing Ernie Hudson in anything is always fun. I’m still waiting on Congo 2, Hollywood!

If you’re looking for a good, cheesy '80s action movie, The Octagon is definitely not the way to go. It’s a boring mess with horrible action sequences and some really putrid acting. What could have been fun just turns out to be painful.

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  • If Watch Instantly didn’t exist, my Netflix account would have been disabled a long time ago. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they went all digital in the next decade once Hollywood realizes the DVD Boom is over and decide to change with the times.

    And I agree you with Lisa, it’s nice to stream when there’s no good alternatives. Couple this with Hulu (and possibly Joost, if it still exists) and TV can become irrelevant.

  • This is a great idea for a column, Jonathan. At our house we’ve found that the Instant Watch queue really adds to the overall value of our Netflix subscription.

    I was traveling on business a few months back, and the hotel I stayed in had fairly crappy cable choices on TV, and all the movies worth watching were pay per view. It was nice to be able to stream a movie to my laptop without having to pay for it.