Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Missing in Action II: The Beginning

The exhausted, emotionally drained faces on these POW aptly sum up how I feel after watch Missing in Action II: The Beginning. It is a sharply contrasting film. The first hour brutally depicts the physical and psychological torture the POW have to face long after the Vietnam war has ended. The final thirty-five minutes are the standar one man army action antics as Chuck Norris does his thing against the camp and in particular, the sadistic Col. Yin, the man who has devoted his life to breaking our hero in body and spirit.

Missing in Action II: The Beginning was filmed back to back with Missing in Action. It was intended to be released first, but the producers felt like Missing in Action was the better film, so it was shelved for a while to serve as a prequel. But is it a better movie? The characters are certainly more fleshed out. We get to know and empathize with the POW far more than the nameless extras whom chuck Norris as Col. James Braddock rescued in Missing in Action. braddock, too, is a much broader character. He actually has dialogue for one thing. On a more serious note, Braddock is portrayed as an honorable man who resists his captors’ efforts to break him and ultimately escape them altogether.

Any serious critique I have of Missing in Action II: the Beginning has to do with how unpleasant the vast majority of it is to watch. I do not generally have a big beef with films depicting torture if it furthers the plot or even slasher horror films if there is enough absurdity in it to be amusing. An entire hour of POW being forced into slave labor, force playing Russian Roulette, being taunted about family back home moving on, watching the relative comfort of a traitor compared to their living conditions, and particularly the famous rat in a bag scene which Braddock coul save himself by biting the rat just go on and on and on. One goes well passed the point of sympathizing with the POW plight to wondering why they have not offed themselves just to get away from the perpetual torment.

After I have spent an hour immersed in the misery, I am less than enthusiastic for when the gunfire and explosions begin. I have a lot of confidence many other action fans do not have this problem. That is fine with me. The action sequences are great. Seriously, it is thirty minutes of everything from a flamethrower to karate kicking and C4 explosions. The film even improves on Missing in Action by featuring a man to man battle between Braddock and the main villain. The problem is initial excess. Too much angst is laid on for the first hour for my taste.

But okay. This is still a Chuck Norris movie. I cannot hold it to too high a standard. As far as your typical Norris action film goes, Missing in Action II: The Beginning delivers. Perhaps it should have begin delivering a half hour earlier than it does, but that is just my take. Missing in Action, for all its flaws, is a more mature film in spite of less developed characters because it is more interested in telling a story rather than showing us forgotten men tortured to the breaking point going wild on their tormenters. But hey, you are watching a Norris film to watch him do just that, so mileage may vary. For my money, the film is too unbalanced between drama and action to be as enjoyable as many action fans consider it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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