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Missing in Action(1984)
Colonel James Braddock is an American officer who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, then escaped 10 years ago
For more about Missing in Action and the Missing in Action Blu-ray release, see Missing in Action Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 28, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Chuck Norris, M. Emmet Walsh, David Tress, James Hong
Director: Joseph Zito
» See full cast & crew
Missing in Action Blu-ray Review
If he wasn't guilty of war crimes before, he probably is now.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 28, 2012
Watching the hokey Chuck Norris return-to-Vietnam movie Missing in Action today—28 years after its release—is a bit like watching a version of Tropic Thunder with all the comedy edited out, leaving only cheeseball '80s action tropes. That is, it's nearly indistinguishable from a parody of itself. With the recent proliferation of internet memes like "Chuck Norris Facts"—e.g., "Chuck Norris gives life lemons"—the impressively bearded martial artist has become an ironically venerated superbeing capable of counting to infinity twice, texting using a rotary phone, and lighting fires by rubbing two ice cubes together. As my personal favorite fact goes, Norris "puts the laughter in manslaughter."
Of course, the thing about ironic veneration is that by definition it's really only applied to things that were never that great in the first place. Hence, the rabid "love" of so-bad-they're-good movies like Road House and Troll 2 and Showgirls. Likewise, Missing in Action falls into a special category of awful, inadvertently hilarious filmmaking—a sort of far-right-wing camp kitsch, ridiculously patriotic and borderline racist. The film is Reagan-era Vietnam revisionist hokum at its best—or worst, I guess—casting the U.S. as unimpeachably well-intentioned and portraying the Vietnamese as commie red bastards, duplicitously evil and heartless. It's nigh impossible to view this as a straight-faced action film anymore.
B-movie production house Cannon Films made Missing in Action concurrently with its prequel, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, which was originally intended to be released first. However, producers Menaham Golan and Yorum Globus made the odd decision to lead with the chronologically second story, which they felt was the better movie. But "better" here doesn't mean much. For a film with such a high body count— Norris probably offs, I dunno, 80 or 90 baddies here—Missing in Action in unusually dull, a by-the-numbers shoot-em-up that grows tiresome with its rote explosions and knifings and gratuitously slow-motioned would-be badassery. This one sits more on the bad end of the so-bad-it's- good spectrum.
It's also a knowing rip-off of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Golan/Glubus got their hands on an early script of the James Cameron-penned Rambo sequel and decided to preemptively steal the plot, rushing the Missing in Action movies into production. Norris plays Sylvester Stallone stand-in Colonel James Braddock, a war hero who narrowly escapes from a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp—you'll see a bit of that in flashback, though you'll have to watch The Beginning to get the full story—but unavoidably leaves a few good men behind. The film proper opens ten years later, with Braddock lying in bed with his shirt undone—the sheer volume and texture of chest hair in this movie is staggering—listening to a news broadcast about how there may still be U.S. soldiers imprisoned in jungle camps. When the newscaster mentions him—"he's completely withdrawn from any public discussion of the MIA situation"—the bearded vet kicks in the TV screen, calls up the government, and delivers a four-word message: "It's Braddock. I'll go."
The film gets us all amped up for the guns a'blazing rescue action to come, but it takes forever to put all the pieces in motion. Rather than Uncle Sam immediately arming Braddock to the teeth and sending him into the jungle alone to single-handedly bring back the troops, our hero—in a denim chambray work-shirt, the top two buttons undone, naturally—is dispatched to a diplomatic summit in Ho Chi Minh City, where the comically villainous General Trau (James Wong) denies the presence of U.S. prisoners and then accuses Braddock of war crimes. "You want war crimes? I'll give you war crimes," Braddock doesn't say, although he might as well, since he's about to go vigilante on every red star-wearing ass inside the Mekong Delta.
When his sexy minder (Lenore Kasdorf) asks him up to her hotel room for a nightcap, Braddock promptly undresses—we get yet another glance at that luscious chest hair—only to don a covert black ninja-style outfit, hop out the window, and track down Trau, looking for intel and casually killing every Vietnamese soldier he encounters along the way. From here, the film takes a detour to Bangkok—listen for the brothel karaoke Rod Stewart cover song —where Braddock tracks down his old war buddy Tuck (M. Emmet Walsh), who owns a little boat capable of ferrying him deep into the heart of darkness. Tuck comes along begrudgingly for the ride, providing the movie's limited intentionally comic relief. They're dogged at every turn by the menacing Colonel Vinh (Ernie Ortega), whose foot-soldiers are armed with AKs and grenade launchers.
We're more than an hour into the 101-minute film before Braddock and Tuck finally set off for the secret prison, and the payoff isn't really worth the wait. Are there some big 'ol, screen-filling explosions? Yep. Does Braddock stand waist-deep in the river, mowing down "gooks" with an assault rifle in slow-motion? Uh-huh. Do the bad guys have unbelievably terrible aim? You betcha. But does any of this actually thrill or prove enjoyable on any other level besides a guilty-pleasure fondness for dumb, second-tier '80s action movies? Not really. Norris is flat-out boring to watch here, going through the action star motions. Granted, a film like this is fun in the right situation—usually involving friends, alcohol, and Mystery Science Theater-style running commentary—but even then, Missing in Action doesn't offer as much opportunity for ironic reveling as some of Norris' other, even less accomplished vehicles. I'm not saying Missing is too good for its own good—it's most definitely not—but its supposedly "worse" prequel, Missing in Action 2, actually makes for a more entertaining evening.
Missing in Action Blu-ray, Video Quality
Missing in Action makes its Blu-ray debut with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that looks about as good as a mid-1980s B-movie action flick can be expected to look. The film was shot on a rather grainy 35mm stock, but Fox/MGM has wisely avoided any de-noising or filtering—no repeat of the Great Predator DNR Disaster of 2011—and the picture is likewise free of artificial edge enhancement. The print itself is in very good shape; you'll spot some mild brightness flickering in a few scenes, but there are no scratches or stains and hardly any white specks. The level of clarity is unavoidably constrained by the gritty film stock and the spherical lenses used, but the sheer act of remastering the film in high definition brings out detail that just wouldn't be visible on DVD. Color is satisfyingly reproduced too, with dense green jungle foliage, fiery explosive blasts, and deep but not oppressive blacks. If Norris' skin tones look a bit ruddy at times, I suspect it's because Norris' skin tones are ruddy. Watching the film, there's definitely an immediate sense of yes, this looks better than I remember, so for hardcore Chuck Norris fans, the Blu-ray is probably worth the cost of the visual upgrade.
Missing in Action Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This is no top-tier, grade-A action flick, so it should come as no surprise that Missing in Action skips a multi-channel sound mix in favor of good old-fashioned mono. The film's Blu-ray release at least delivers a lossless track, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 presentation that gets the job done adequately, with no overt hissing, pops, or crackles. Most importantly, dialogue is always high in the mix and easily understood, although voices can occasionally sound a bit too rounded and heavy in the mid-range. The explosions are thin and bass-less, but gunshots have a decently weighty pop. Otherwise, the effects are entirely unremarkable. Audio-wise, the best part of the film is undoubtedly when Braddock makes his way through the Bangkok streets, which are filled with deliciously cheesy 1980s electro music. The film also features a synth-meets-orchestral score by Jay Chattaway, best known for his work on various Star Trek series. The disc includes French, Italian, German, and Catalan dubs, all in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0.
Missing in Action Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The lone supplement on the disc is the film's theatrical trailer, presented in high definition.
Missing in Action Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Missing in Action is an exceptionally dumb movie—a B-level Rambo ripoff at best—but there's no doubt that it has its cult fans. Whether they love it genuinely, ironically, or with a guilty pleasure glee is another matter entirely, but regardless, Chuck Norris apologists of all stripes should be happy with this Blu-ray upgrade, which more than adequately updates the film's home video presentation for the high definition era. There are no special features on the disc beyond a theatrical trailer, but it's not like this is a high-priced title. Do note that the release is currently a Walmart exclusive, but it should arrive at other retailers later this year.
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Missing in Action Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Three Chuck Norris Films Exclusively at Wal-Mart - April 6, 2012
20th Century Fox Entertainment will release on Blu-ray three action films starring Chuck Norris: Joseph Zito's Missing in Action (1984), Lance Hool's Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985), and Menahem Golan's The Delta Force (1986). The three films, which will ...
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