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Black Eagle Reviews

More espionage drama than martial-arts actioner, this Sho Kosugi vehicle — rising star Jean-Claude Van Damme's third credited film — is a fairly solid secret-agent story. An Air Force F-111 jet is shot down off the Maltese coast, in a missile attack we unfortunately only hear over a military transmission. Soviet Colonel Vladimir Klimenko (Vladimir Skomarovsky) and a "fishing trawler" full of Russians retrieve the jet's secret SX-1 laser guidance system. An American spy (Gene Davis) sent to the jet is killed by KGB enforer Andrei (Van Damme). CIA man Dean Rickert (William H. Bassett) then calls in Ken Tani (Sho Kosugi), who gets an ironclad two weeks off every summer to spend with his kids (the star's real-life sons, Kane and Shane). The film doesn't say why Tani only sees them once a year or why, since he's on assignment in Afghanistan anyway, he doesn't put off the vacation a few days. And the fact Tani's code name is "Black Eagle" is mentioned only once, making it as moot as the name of the F-111's super-secret guidance system — Rapid Angel. In any event, Rickert secures Tani's cooperation by bringing the boys to Malta. Posing as an oceanographer, Tani does some reconnaissance with Father Joseph Bedelia (Bruce French), a Jesuit priest and former spook Rickert has also pressed into service. In between discovering that the SX-1 is missing, recovering the plane's warhead and killing bad guys, Tani visits museums with his kids, who are watched over by agent Patricia Parker (Doran Clark) and a bodyguard (Alfred Mallia). Kosugi and Van Damme get three fights: a very brief, not particular well-shot one outside a casino nearly 40 minutes in, one outside a Maltese fort, and one in the pyrotechnic climax on the docks. The martial-arts sequences, which Kosugi choreographed, are refreshing: Enemy agents are dispatched with quick, no-nonsense kills from behind cover, and the second Kosugi-Van Damme fight in particular is a high-intensity but low-key bout that's utterly believable and all the more fascinating to watch for lack of its superheroic exaggeration. Similarly, Parker isn't some Charlie's Angel cutie-pie, but a believably athletic professional who knows her spycraft. The hodgepodge of accents is almost impenetrably thick — the charismatic Kosugi's in particular — and the film's look and direction are unimpressively telefilm-like. But its more reflective than many of its type: When one son asks if the enemies are "bad men," Tani replies, "They probably think we are bad men."