The Octagon

Ninjas climb the walls of Chuck Norris’s apartment building. They catch him sleeping and within an ace of extinction he snaps back and demobilizes them. In the midst of an ongoing rumble, there’s a knock on the door. Everything all right? the man asks.

The title just grazingly evokes the leader of the adverse party in The Quiller Memorandum (Max von Sydow as Oktober) on its way to a telling portrait of a ninja training camp built of wood on the analogy of the Pentagon. Norris makes his way inside, dispatches a few of the trainees, then is overpowered and made to walk the obstacle course.

The Japanese actors have the slight hysterical cruelty of the Imperial forces, rather than the smart grace exhibited by Norris, who fights more fast bouts than is customary, with no mitigation of the camera.


Black Eagle

One of Shō Kosugi’s two young sons escapes his KGB captors on Malta, runs through the streets and down to the quay, where he turns a corner and collides with several other children, who angrily beset him. He defends himself as a good student of his father’s style, and the scene ends with a Maltese policeman confronting him in a characteristic forward-tilting posture that defines the place as much as the settings.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is just the ticket as a Soviet thug. Kosugi ritually prepares himself and goes on the warpath in a film primarily based on Thunderball (the title is by way of Hammett). There’s plenty of action, with an elegant display of Van Damme’s style. The concluding image of the Colosseum in Rome sets the tale in its humanistic or humoristic context.