Hero and the Terror was directed by William Tannen (Flashpoint, Night of Terror), written by Michael Blodgett (Turner and Hooch, Rent-a-Cop), and Dennis Shryack (The Car, Pale Rider) who adapted it from Blodgett’s novel. It stars Chuck Norris (An Eye for an Eye, Lone Wolf McQuade), Brynn Thayer (One Life To Live, Doobious Sources), Jack O’Halloran (King Kong, Fury of the Fist and the Golden Fleece), Ron O’Neal (The Final Countdown, Super Fly), and Steve James (The Exterminator, Avenging Force). It’s about a cop trying to stop a serial killer who was once thought dead.
The Plot: Some creativity resides within the mostly conventional story in Hero and the Terror, most apparent with its antagonist and the usage of a movie theater as a location; but the movie does get bogged down with its own subplots. O’Brien (Norris) is a local idol for taking down serial killer Moon (O’Halloran) (who’s been dubbed “the Terror” by locals) at his lair at an old amusement park. It’s been six months and O’Brien has a requisite pregnant girlfriend, Kay (Thayer), and a new house; but O’Brien is having nightmares about Moon.
Moon escapes an asylum but dies in a car crash. Some years later more murders are committed and the mayor (O’Neal) wants O’Brien to downplay them. Sure that it’s the Terror, he declines and puts his life on hold, and begins his search with partner Robinson (James). Although the movie is more than fine with diving into it while sidelining the killer, which helps give the movie more weight but provides a struggle with identity.
The Characters: I’ve gotta say I’m consistently surprised with the level of texture that exists in this and several other Norris starrers, but maybe that’s just luck pointing me towards the more human Norris roles. O’Brien is a workable protagonist with a good level of personality and depth. A quiet and physically capable man with hopes of being a father and a husband, he’s trying to make things work with Kay and edge towards marriage but can’t find peace knowing that the Terror is still alive.
Kay is a good foil by no coincidence. She was his therapist who evidently took a liking to him but has issues with indecision but only means well. Moon is definitely imposing as he’s adorned with bluish-white skin, teeth as yellow as the sun, and not a word to say. An animal is a good comparison and the movie makes it, noting that he acts solely on instinct, scoring zeros on every personality test; leaving nothing but brawn for Norris to take on.
The Drama: Unlike most of Norris’s starring roles, Hero and the Terror is more focused on the imprint that having dealt with a twisted killer like Moon has left on O’Brien. It’s never great but the small moments that O’Brien shares with the other characters shed light on what seeing the things the Terror did firsthand by way of mentioning his life being lived with fear in the back of his mind at all times and showing his attempts to escape it by working out and going to sleep consistently.
O’Brien’s acceptance after his initial realization that Moon could still be alive is decent but fares worse than Hero and the Terror’s internal drama due to the subpar balancing of bits involving O’Brien the husband and O’Brien the detective, along with a lack of on-screen moments with the Terror that would’ve helped to drive home the kind of animal he is and his return to the living. Still, for a Norris vehicle, it ain’t bad.
The Technics: Hero and the Terror is shot extremely well, making use of long takes that establish O’Brien’s state of mind with a voyeuristic look, smoky appearance, and thinly lit interiors when he’s the only person present in certain scenes. On occasion, the movie does get a bit carried away and lets the shots linger longer than necessary though. Pacing is generally okay but the runtime goes on a few minutes too long and goes for too many stretches without scenes that involve the Terror. That is the most egregious misstep Tannen makes here since the bad guy is too good to leave in the dust.
Chuck once again delivers a solid performance and chemistry he shares with Thayer. Hero and the Terror is a well-put-together crime/drama that unfortunately skimps on the crime, but despite the neglect of the baddie; the movie around him makes for a good time.
Hero and the Terror is available on streaming platforms, including free to watch on Tubi where available. It’s also available on DVD and Blu-ray. And if you want more action, FilmTagger has some suggestions for you.