Ok, so here’s my favorite Chuck Norris fact…Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer, too bad he’s never cried in his life! You know, I’ll bet many of the children of the internet who kept that meme going have never even seen a Chuck Norris movie. There was a time in the 80’s when it seemed like there was a new Norris film coming out every couple of months. In today’s movie he takes a page out of Rambo’s playbook in 1984’s “Missing in Action.”
Norris plays Colonel James Braddock, a former POW of the Vietnam War. Braddock managed to make it out, but he knows, deep down, that there are still American POW’s being held, despite the war being over for years. Today, Braddock spends his time speaking out on the POW situation, when he’s not sulking in hotel rooms, that is.
Braddock ends up being invited to accompany a delegation from the US government to Vietnam for diplomatic meetings. As soon as he hits the ground, though, Braddock embarks on his own personal mission to find the POW’s. He manages to find out some info by surprising the evil General Trau (James Hong) as he sleeps, but when Braddock is discovered…the destruction begins!
Leaving the politicians behind, Braddock seeks out an old buddy, Tuck (M. Emmett Walsh), who has a boat that can get him into the war zone where the POW’s are being kept. Tuck is also the man with the contacts, so he’s able to help Braddock acquire a small arsenal. From there, lots of people get shot, lots of things blow up, and Chuck Norris kicks some serious butt!
“Missing in Action” is often referred to as a Rambo rip-off…and it sorta is. Various online sources claim that it was based on James Cameron’s treatment for what became “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” But, “Missing in Action” actually made it to the screen before Rambo (“First Blood” did come first, but that one wasn’t about rescuing POW’s).
Critics absolutely hated “Missing in Action,” and I understand why. It’s got its problems. The first half of the film drags and drags and drags with long shots that I think were designed to show Braddock as this brooding figure. Instead, it leaves the audience wondering when anything exciting is going to happen. But when the movie gets going, it really gets going!
It’s weird, there’s absolutely nothing extraordinary about the action sequences…Norris fires a machine gun from the boat, Norris blows up lots of buildings, Norris pops out of the water and fires on the enemy…yet, when all these things happen, you can’t help but cheer! Sue me, but I’m a sucker for the ending especially, where Braddock storms into a meeting, with the POW’s in tow, where Vietnamese officials are stating that there are no POW’s. It’s goofy fun, don’t try to over analyze it.
Don’t get me wrong, this is far from a great film. The pacing is off, the acting is weak, and, the biggest crime of all, James Hong is underused. But what can I say, it’s fun to watch things blow up!