Sunday, September 2, 2012

Uncommon Valor

We are going to go through a mini-spell of 80’s movies from the Mercenaries Rescuing American POW Left Behind After the Vietnam War genre that salved the wound of losing the war by making sure it was won the second time around through no assistance from the United states government. I have already hit on the subject with the mindless, but still enjoyable Rambo: First Blood, Part II, so we are not plunging into completely unfamiliar territory.

Uncommon Valor certainly is familiar territory. With a cast that includes Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, and a young Patrick Swayze, I was expecting a more serious treatment of the issue. One tends to forget among the many one man army films involving the rescuing of alleged POW from Vietnam that the issue was and still is in many respects, a burning issue for the families of missing servicemen. There is no compelling reason to think the Vietnamese would continue holding prisoners after the war, emotions have run high enough for the government to investigate the possibility and, naturally, scammers to give false hope for families. The cruelty inherent in depicting the plight of POW in this genre of film is tough enough when one does not know anyone Mia from the Vietnam War, as I do not, but it is even more difficult when a genre film I was expecting to have a more serious tone does not rise much above the average Chuck Norris film.

Hackman is not the only misleading element. Director Ted Kotcheff’s previous outing was First Blood, the most serious of the Rambo films in dealing with the lingering wounds left by the Vietnam War on those who fought it. I suspect Kotcheff was able to make Uncommon Valor based on the merits of First Blood. The final product does not fly as high as it could.

Hack man plays Marine Col. Cal Rhodes, who believe his son was left behind as a POW in Laos long after the war. He reassembles his son’s unit to undergo a mercenary mission to rescue him. The mission is financed by a wealthy businessman named Macgregor whose son is also suspected of being held prisoner in Laos. MacGregor builds a replica of the prison camp for the team to practice, but things still go wrong on the mission. Several main characters die. MacGregor’s son is found alive, but Rhodes’ died of illness shortly after he was captured. Nevertheless, Rhodes now has a melancholy sense of closure. A sense of closure I hasten to remind everyone the film encourages families with Mia loved ones not to have, since they could be suffering in putrid jungle prisons.

Uncommon Valor winds up far more on par with the future ninja flicks of co-star Michael Dudikoff than Hackman and Swayze’s other film efforts. It is a mindless action film, and if you go in expecting it to be only that, you will probably like it. I would not call it a classic even within action films or the aforementioned Nercenaries Rescuing American POW Left Behind after the Vietnam War genre for that matter, but Uncommon Valor has slipped through the cracks over the years as far as either is concerned.

So if you have not seen it because it has been relatively forgotten, by all means do. It has all the gunfire, explosions, and carnage for which you are looking. Once I settled in on the fact was as emotionally shallow as your average Saturday morning cartoon, I was further amused by the weird combination of serious actors and b-movie stars fighting side by side. Maybe that will serve as an amusement actor for you, too. Uncommon Valor is a popcorn action flick best left for a night when one wishes to be mindlessly entertained.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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