In "The Delta Force," the camera is fluttering among the pleasantly ecumenical passengers on a flight to Rome when it alights on the face of George Kennedy, playing a priest from Chicago, and you think:
"Hoo boy, there goes that plane."
"The Delta Force," in other words, is one of those disaster movies that Hollywood was churning out 10 years ago, and while no, Charlton Heston is not the pilot, Shelley Winters makes an appearance, as do Martin Balsam, Lainie Kazan, Robert Vaughn, Lee Marvin, Joey Bishop (!) and Hanna Schygulla (!!).
The action is based on the hijacking that made Capt. Testrake a household word ("TWA" is cleverly disguised as "AWT"). The plane is commandeered by Arab hijackers, which means that the eponymous Delta Force, led by Marvin and Chuck Norris, have to make their way Mideast-side, to show these impetuous curs you don't mess with Chuck.
Now, on first blush, any movie that has Joey Bishop playing opposite Hanna Schygulla ought to be worth the price of admission, and "The Delta Force" might have been campy fun if a) Heston were the pilot, and b) director Menahem Golan and his cowriter, James Bruner, didn't use Nazi concentration camps as a prop for cheesy melodrama. When the stewardess (Schygulla) begins collecting passports to search for Jews, one outstretched arm (Balsam's) bears a tattooed number; later, the stewardess shrieks about being German and "the Selection" happening all over again. Golan and Bruner, in other words, have made the Holocaust into just another tear-jerking tool for the Cannon Productions shlockenspiel.
This is called "chutzpah."
The unoffended will find that the movie doesn't even deliver on its own sordid level. There isn't any action till 70 minutes into the film -- and that's a pallid car chase, immediately deflated by composer Alan Silvestri's idiotic disco fanfare. After the car chase, it's another 30 minutes till you can watch Chuck do any karate; after successfully rescuing the hostages, he sadistically tortures the terrorist leader and, ultimately, blows him up with a rocket.
This is called "spoiling the ending."
The Delta Force, opening today at area theaters, is rated R and contains violence.