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Blast from the Past: Lone Wolf McQuade 

click to enlarge LONE WOLF In Lone Wolf McQuade, Chuck Norris plays J.J. McQuade, a clichéd tough guy loner who hates vegetables and loves beer. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ORION PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Orion Pictures
  • LONE WOLF In Lone Wolf McQuade, Chuck Norris plays J.J. McQuade, a clichéd tough guy loner who hates vegetables and loves beer.

When? 1983

What's it rated? PG

Where? Free on YouTube

The internet loves Chuck Norris, and why not? He's legendarily hairy and whenever he gets sweaty he looks like he's covered in warm butter. He owns the classic tough guy look and embodies all the clichés of action stars. And he can kick really, really high.

Various and sundry corners of the web are populated with a never-ending stream of memes that pay homage to his legend. One reads, "Death once had a near Chuck Norris experience." Another, "Chuck Norris doesn't turn on the shower, he just stares at it until it cries."

There's something very silly about Norris and it's entirely different from the sort of silliness of, say, Steven Seagal. One is funny because he doesn't take himself too seriously and the other is hilarious precisely because he takes himself extremely seriously.

But there's a certain preternatural charm to Norris and within him, seemingly, an instinct for never buying into his on-screen persona.

This is evident in the 1983 film Lone Wolf McQuade, in which Norris plays the titular character J.J. McQuade, a clichéd tough guy loner who hates vegetables and loves beer.

We meet Mr. McQuade in the obligatory BAMF (look it up, we keep it clean here, kids) opening. He rescues a handful of police from a violent, murderous horse thief wearing a vest and no shirt. He quickly subdues the bad guys by himself, fighting off Uzi wielding men with snap kicks and his perfectly manicured scruff.

It's an obvious setup, showing the audience that Norris is dangerous and unflappable in the face of violent criminals. The plot, of course, involves a highly dangerous arms dealer who is also supposed to be of ultimate male status.

None of this, by itself, is funny in any kind of self-aware way. There are lots of action films with pretty much exactly the same elements.

But the film gives the audience, at various times, a wink. Among the conspicuous shirtless scenes and the heavy-handed loner, drinker, tough-guy cop tropes are details that make fun of McQuade.

For instance, he gets into a fight with his girlfriend after she throws his beer away and replaces it with vegetables and, after being buried alive, the first thing he asks for is beer.

But the best and strangest moment of the film, the one that shows us how funny the director thinks this all is, appears in the first half of the movie. McQuade is in his office making phone calls about some smuggled firearms and the military base he's called has him on hold. This is where he, inexplicably, begins drawing nipples on a photo. This, against the backdrop of the ultimate tough-guy picture that has been so heavily applied, is hilarious. It tells us that Chuck Norris is laughing with us. Δ

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