Movie Review – Missing In Action (Mini Review)

Principal Cast : Chuck Norris, M Emmett Walsh, David Tress, Leonore Kasdorf, Ernie Ortego, James Hong, E Erich Anderson, Pierrino Mascarino, Bella Flores, Augusto Victa.
Synopsis:  A former American POW returns to Vietnam to search for his fellow soldiers missing in country.


A classic of its time, Chuck Norris’ first feature vehicle with Canon Films is a largely xenophobic, stilted actioner that puts the bearded barrel chest of the 1980’s fourth biggest action star in harms way in the jungles of Vietnam. Dressing up anti-war and propagandist subtext with a bravura, bullet heavy killfest goes a long way to explaining just how this absolutely nonsensical movie came to be considered a cult classic of its genre – Missing In Action is a terrible movie, but made with such earnestness and a cheesy disregard for subtlety it’s also easy to see audiences of the day absolutely lapping this up. A thinly veiled Rambo knock-off (the script was originally intended as a Rambo production, before it moved over to Canon Films and into the lap of Norris) the movie is scurrilous, diffident to the plight of the Vietnamese, and is as proudly yee-ha American as any film of this vintage has the right to be.

Norris assumes the Rambo character, as Colonel James Braddock, a former POW during the Vietnam War who returns to the country ostensibly under the guise of litigating concerns of missing US military personal who have remained imprisoned there, nearly a decade later. Although the local military leadership declaim any such prisoners exist, Braddock sets off into the jungle to locate four missing solders and return them to the USA. Bit parts to James Hong, as one of the Vietnamese leaders, M Emmett Walsh as Braddock’s sidekick upriver, and Erie Ortego as Braddocks’ former POW captor turned General, offer diversionary plotting to the main story, while Lenore Kasdorf, as part of the US State Department envoy sent to Vietnam, is nonsensical eye-candy designed as a foil for a single action sequence and that’s it. Characters are never developed, and even Norris’ Braddock – echoing Martin Sheen’s PTSD afflicted warrior figure in Apocalypse Now to both a startling degree and lesser effect- is a man of few words that aren’t orders, and there are several opportunities given to ensure we see Norris with bare-chested as often as possible. The plot feels like it’s trying to say something about US foreign policy, and the horrifying depiction of Vietnamese culture post-war is galling to say the least, but as a generally simplistic actioner there are far worse ways to while away the hours. While it’s preposterous, cliched and hasn’t aged well at all, Missing in Action defies logic to remain the enduring cult classic it has come to be regarded, despite lacking any value whatsoever to the medium.


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