Bullet Points: Mission Terminate
Richard Norton was born on January 6, 1950 in Melbourne. While growing up in Croydon, Australia, Richard Norton’s love affair with the martial arts began and by the tender age of 17, Norton was a black belt in karate.
Norton’s exceptional martial arts abilities opened many doors for him. Norton was a martial arts instructor all over his native Australia, he worked security at various nightclubs and then his big break… he got a bodyguard gig with The Rolling Stones during their tour of Australia. Other high profile acts like ABBA, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie would employ Norton while they were in the Land Down Under, but it was Linda Ronstadt who invited Norton to move to California and become her personal bodyguard.
It was around that time that Norton struck up a friendship with fellow martial artist Chuck Norris eventually leading to Norris casting Richard Norton in The Octagon. Norton has worked steadily in the movie business ever since often playing the heavy or as a heroic sidekick.
In this edition of Bullet Points, I’m going to examine one of Norton’s rare starring roles in 1987’s Mission Terminate…
- Prologue: The movie begins in North Vietnam in the year nineteen hundred and seventy. Recon Team Charlie, a marine unit led by Col. Ted Ryan, go overboard when they massacre a village that was filled with women and children and then steal some gold that villagers had stashed away. When the pillaging and plundering is over, Ryan orders an airstrike to cover his tracks, figuring no one but the members of Recon Team Charlie would ever know what really happened on that day… but someone saw the whole thing.
- Fast Forward: The year is now 1986, and members of the former Recon Team Charlie are being assassinated one by one. Col. Ryan, who is now with USMC Intelligence calls the Pentagon and requests the best of the best, Major Brad Cooper (Richard Norton), to come in and investigate and terminate the mysterious assassin before the assassin gets to the rest of Recon Team Charlie. You may be wondering if the Australian born Richard Norton is speaking with an American accent for his role as an elite American soldier… the answer is no… they explain that Cooper was raised in Australia but he’s “American… All-American!” And what is a military man doing sporting a beard and long hair? He works undercover directly for the Pentagon, so apparently that gives him carte blanche to look and dress any way he damn well pleases. Col Ryan wants to know who I doing the killing, but Major Cooper is more concerned with why. Cooper quickly ascertains that Col. Ryan and his men may have brought this upon themselves, so he starts digging into their activities in Vietnam back in 1970, this does not sit well with Col. Ryan and he dismisses Cooper from the investigation, but Major Cooper plans on finishing what he started…
- Back Story: During the course of his investigation Cooper meets Quan Niehn (surprisingly portrayed by Bruce Le in a non-Bruceploitation role!). Quan was an interpreter and guide for Recon Team Charlie in Vietnam. Quan is given a backstory that becomes a key element to the plot. Quan and his brother came across an injured ninja master in the jungle when they were just boys. The two brothers nursed the ninja master back to health and to repay them, the master became their sensei and taught the brothers the art of ninjutsu. One brother (Quan) used these skills for good, the other brother (credited as Bad Brother) used his skills for evil and joined the Viet Cong. In the present day, “Bad Brother” is working for a secret camp that trains the future terrorists of the world… oh and on his off time, “Bad Brother” is killing off Recon Team Charlie… it seems it was “Bad Brother” who saw what Ryan and his men did to those villagers and the gold that they stole.
- Hangin’ with Major Cooper: With a common foe to bring them together, we then get the Richard Norton/Bruce Le dream team we never even knew we wanted. Major Cooper calls in some soldier friends known as The Queen’s Cobras to help himself and Quan invade the terrorist training camp (located on a secluded part of a mountain no less) and terminate “Bad Brother”. This leads to the majority of the third act of the film being action packed with firefights in the jungle between The Queen’s Cobras and the future terrorists of the world, explosions and of course some martial arts fighting! The big problem with the finale of the film was we had two credible action heroes but only one credible action villain for them to square off with. Quan and Cooper kind of split the duty of terminating “Bad Brother” with Quan starting the fight giving us the brother vs. brother angle, but ultimately the star of the movie, Major Cooper, is the one who actually terminates “Bad Brother”. I could see a scenario where Col. Ryan could have come into play at the end and trying to silence Cooper before he could report back to the Pentagon and Quan saving the day, but instead Quan does not get his moment.
Of the two starring roles I’ve seen Richard Norton in, Mission Terminate and Not Another Mistake, I believe Mission Terminate is far superior. What makes Mission Terminate superior? A big part of it is Bruce Le’s involvement. Nobody knows the importance of a quality sidekick better than Richard Norton, who was the quality sidekick to Cynthia Rothrock in the China O’Brien movies, so it was nice to see Norton get his own quality sidekick in the form of Bruce Le.
And while on the subject of sidekicks, Bonus Bullet Points are always a quality sidekick to any review on this site…
- AKA: Mission Terminate is also known as Return of the Kickfighter. The Return of the Kickfighter name could lead you to believe that the movie is a sequel, but that is not the case and it is a stand alone film, which I why I personally prefer the Mission Terminate name.
- In Like Flint: Rex Cutter portrayed the role of Col. Ted Ryan but I swear his voice was dubbed by Bill Ratner, who provided the voice of Flint in the classic G.I. Joe cartoon. Unfortunately I can not find any evidence to back up this claim.
- Where’s Richard?: During the third act of the movie when the movie went into action overload mode, Norton was conspicuous by his absence for a few minutes. Also conspicuous by its absence in many scenes in the film was Richard Norton’s shirt.
- Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over: Mission Terminate spared no expense on additional lighting for the film… literally, there was no additional lighting used in the film. If the room they were filming in had a single lamp, that was all the light you were going to get. This did not make for the best viewing experience and is really my only major complaint about the movie.