Review: Death Before Dishonour
Fred Dryer plays a Marine Gunnery Sergeant assigned the task of overseeing security at an embassy in a fictional Middle Eastern country. He and his men (who include a youngish Sasha Mitchell) are forced to take action when Colonel Brian Keith is kidnapped by an Arab terrorist helpfully named Jihad (Rockne Tarkington!), and the U.S. Ambassador (Paul Winfield) is too gutless to do a damn thing. Joanna Pacula plays a woman with somewhat ambiguous motives.
How in the hell is this not a Michael Dudikoff vehicle from The Cannon Group? No, instead this 1987 military actioner directed by Terry Leonard (a veteran stuntman and 2nd Unit director in his one and only directorial stint), written by John Gatliff (who according to IMDb has no other film credits at all), stars former TV star and former American footballer Fred Dryer (best known for a TV show called “Hunter”) and comes from New World Pictures. It’s a bit classier than a lot of what Cannon churned out, with a surprisingly classy music score from the usually cheapo Aussie composer Brian May (“Mad Max”, “Gallipoli”, “Turkey Shoot”), and generally competent performances.
Fred Dryer is perfectly fine in the lead (better than Dudikoff or Chuck Norris would’ve been), but the film does lack a suitable action star with real gravitas, if you ask me. Dryer is more Richard Widmark than Sly Stallone or Bruce Willis, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Brian Keith is his usual excellent, gruff self in a nothing role (what an underrated actor!), and deep-voiced Rockne Tarkington is better as the Arab terrorist than you’d expect an African-American named Rockne Tarkington to be playing an Arab terrorist. His deep voice serves him particularly well. Joanna Pacula isn’t much of an actress but she’s never been hotter than she is here. The worst offender in the cast is, rather surprisingly, the otherwise talented Paul Winfield. He’s actually pretty stiff and stilted, and his Ambassador character is really the Angry Black Police Chief stereotype in disguise, if you ask me.
The film is pretty mediocre, but in low-budget 80s action movie terms, that makes it a bit better than average. Pretty violent, pretty racist (not just towards Arabs, but essentially anyone with an accent), though compared to a lot of other low-budget actioners of the time, it’s actually a bit more thoughtful. Perhaps that’s why Cannon (and Chuck Norris) aren’t involved. It’s interesting that an American film from the 1980s, set in the Middle East has a character saying ‘Go home, American. This isn’t your war!’. Real interesting, though there’s no doubt it’s still pro-American and anti-Arab/Islam at the end of the day.
If there’s an audience for the horrible and racist “Invasion USA” (and apparently there was and still is), there should be one for this. It’s not bad, especially if you’re into military actioners and hot chicks.