Monday, September 3, 2012

Missing in Action

The next film in our mini-tour of the Mercenaries Rescuing American POW Left Behind After the Vietnam War, we are going to look at what most probably consider the first big film in the genre. The reality is it is not even the first film in the Missing in Action. The prequel, which I will review tomorrow, was meant to be the first film, which is why it depicts Col. James Braddock’s experiences as a POW oddly after we have seen him rescue other POW in this film. The producers realized Missing in Action was a better film and wisely released it first.

The review must be prefaced with the statement that my expectations are adjusted going in. this is a Chuck Norris movie, so the bar is set at an appropriate level when judging its merit. Missing in Action is a mindless--emphasis on that word--action film that in no way displays any emotional depth in dealing with the MIA issue. In fact, Norris spends much of the film starring off blankly into space while spouting off slightly more dialogue than the Little Tramp.

Norris stars as Braddock, a man who spent ten years post-Vietnam War in a POW camp. He escaped a relatively ambiguous time ago, and has since become outspoken on the idea americans are still imprisoned in Southeast Asia. How Braddock can be outspoken when he utters five words an hour in beyond me, but there you go. Braddock joins a senator on a fact finding mission to Ho Chi Minh City, but winds up a poor diplomat when the first government official he runs into routinely tortured him as a POW.

We see much of Braddock’s POW experience through flashbacks, none of which jibe with what the prequel depicts. Nevertheless, the point is made. Braddock knows what his fellow prisoners are suffering, and he has no patience for political wrangling on the matter. Braddock forces his former captor to reveal the location of the remaining POW camp, stabs him to death, and sets out to find his old buddy with his bullet proof boat to mount a rescue from Thailand.

You can fill in the blanks with the rest. There is plnty of gunfire, explosions, and lots of Chuck Norris kicking and punching will next to no pesky dialogue getting in the way. Seriously, if you did not know better, you might suspect English was Norris’ second language with as little as he has to say and as tersely as his spits out what little dialogue there is for him to say. He is intense, guys, rescuing servicemen the government has abandoned. But actions speak louder than words in this film. Instead of ending on some speech about the pain of Vietnam era American soldier, Braddock unleashes the released POW on a joint meeting between American and Vietnamese government official who have just declared there are no prisoners still held in Vietnam.

Missing in Action needs an unusual ending, because Braddock kills the main villain about a third of the way into the film. Is there any other movie in which that happens? Seriously, save for one henchmen who is dispatched during the climax, the villains are all nameless, dialogue less cannon fodder on the way to rescue POW. I would not call the lack of mastermin villain a detriment, but it is an oddity.

The oddity matters naught, however. Missing in Action is the best of the trilogy, as well as one of the best action films ever, much less in the subgenre. It is mindless, no doubt. Norris has all the personality of a two by four. Even the emotionally disturbed Rambo comes across as a warmer guy. But what do you expect from Norris? Pardon the pun, but Missing in Action is a cannot miss for action fans.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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