Eddie Cusack (Chuck Norris) is a Chicago cop who plays by the rules, even if his colleagues do not as often as they should. Today he is leading a sting on a gang of drugs dealers who are meeting their contact at a rundown house in an equally rundown part of town, and Eddie is posing as a garbage man as his cover. Then there are complications when one of the officers notices a team of painters going into the place next door - he quickly realises there isn't anyone living there, but it is too late as they open fire on the dealers, massacring them.
It may come as little surprise to learn Code of Silence was originally intended as a Dirty Harry movie for Clint Eastwood, and you can see his persona fitting into proceedings here very snugly, but it was Chuck Norris in his mid-eighties pomp who eventually took the role, with the results that many found this preferable to his usual one man army shenanigans. If there was an issue it was with the Chuck persona, which did not lend itself to chuckles as this was well before the internet meme which saw him with a fist under his beard and other such tough guy exaggerations, so here he was as humourless as he usually was.
If anything, he was even more humourless here as if the business in hand demanded the utmost seriousness, leaving any giggles offered to Dennis Farina as Eddie's partner to take care of a running joke which was rather lame in comparison with the amusement the modern audience took from certain other elements. Certainly Chuck dialled down his customary beat 'em up moves, with about one single, solitary fighting setpiece where he attempted to take down a bar full of gang members; he nearly succeeded, but it's a mark of the star trying to broaden his appeal that he does end up crumpled on the floor eventually.
Therefore here you were more likely to see Chuck brandishing a gun than using his fists, much as Eastwood would have done in the Dirty Harry fashion. By and by Eddie has two main plotlines to contend with: first that trouble between the drug dealers, one faction of whom is led by Henry Silva who it was always good to see in the baddie role, although here he is not utilised to his full potential (i.e. craziness). The other ties in with this in that while in pursuit of the killers one cop gunned down an innocent bystander who he now frames for his attempted murder, and his partner suffers mightily with his conscience about whether to testify in his favour or not.
There was a sense of Code of Silence being more of a throwback to the seventies in its cultural touchstones, as this could quite easily have been made back in the previous decade. Apart from one aspect, and that was the robot. As it was the eighties, there had to be something indicative of that present, and it hoves into view when a pre-fame John Mahoney opts to demonstrate the force's latest recruit, which is reminscent of Robocop if he had been a wobbly tank. It even speaks! Eddie, being a traditionalist, is as unimpressed as he would have been if the robots from Short Circuit or Rocky IV had shown up instead, but he does find a use for it come the finale. There he had to save kidnap victim Molly Hagan from Silva's clutches, so unironically the robot starts firing machine guns at the bad guys to create a diversion as Chuck forges ahead, leaving what has been a sober crime thriller in absurd, overblown territory. But before that, Code of Silence keeps your attention, even if it is finally a trifle dull. Music by David Frank.