(US - 1987)
Directed by Terry J. Leonard. Written by John Gatliff and Lawrence Kubik. Cast: Fred Dryer, Brian Keith, Joanna Pacula, Paul Winfield, Mohamad Bakri, Kasey Walker, Joey Gian, Peter Parros, Sasha Mitchell, Rockne Tarkington, Tuvia Tavi, Yossi Ashdot, Jullianno Merr, Dan Chodos, Haim Geraffi. (R, 95 mins)
"Go home, Sergeant. Bury your dead and go home. This isn't your war."
"It is now."
Released in the spring of 1987, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR was New World's attempt to get a piece of the Reagan Era's "America! Fuck yeah!" flag-waving counterterrorism action so jingoistic that it made THE DELTA FORCE look like a Costa-Gavras film. One of the most Cannon-esque '80s actioners that Cannon somehow didn't make, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR was the lone big screen starring vehicle for former New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams defensive end Fred Dryer, then in the midst of a successful run as the title character on the NBC cop show HUNTER. A 13-season NFL vet who remains the only player to score two safeties in one game, Dryer was 34 when he retired from football in 1981 and, like many of his contemporaries inspired by the likes of Jim Brown and Fred Williamson some years earlier (Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Alex Karras, Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith, etc), parlayed that gridiron success into an acting career. He nabbed some supporting role in a few TV-movies and in 1982, was almost cast as Sam Malone on CHEERS before Ted Danson ultimately won the role (Dryer did appear in several episodes as one of Sam's buddies from his baseball days). But it was HUNTER that proved to be his breakout acting gig, with Dryer perfectly cast as a tough, plays-by-his-own-rules cop with the obligatory DIRTY HARRY-inspired catchphrase ("Works for me!"). DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR was developed specifically for Dryer by his HUNTER producer Lawrence Kubik, but despite the show's popularity during this period, the audience didn't follow Dryer to the multiplex. The film opened in seventh place and was out of the top ten its second week.
revival of HUNTER--a good decade before the "TV series reboot" became a trendy thing--but lightning didn't strike twice and it was a ratings disaster, prompting NBC to pull the plug after just three episodes. Now 74, Dryer is a frequent guest on sports talk radio, particularly in the L.A. area where he remains an NFL legend, and as an outspoken conservative, he made the rounds on Fox News during the Colin Kaepernick controversy. He's still an occasional presence on TV, with guest spots on shows like AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and NCIS, and was most recently seen on the big screen in a supporting role in the 2018 TRANSFORMERS spinoff BUMBLEBEE.
DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR opening in Toledo, OH on 3/13/1987