As the title indicates, this is another Nam film, where a veteran reenters the jungle and finally rescues the POWs who were left behind when the United States fled Saigon. With Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and even Gene Hackman leading the way, these films were all the rage during the 80s. They provided American audiences with a chance to go back and win the only war that, up to that point, America had lost. Not only did they provide wish-fulfillment for audiences but they also confirmed what several suspected, that the only reason the U.S. lost in Vietnam was because our soldiers’s hands were tied by generals and Washington pencil pushers. If we had just let our men go in and fight the VC guerrilla-style, these films say, Saigon never would have fallen.
Not Another Mistake came out towards the end of the cycle and you know what type of film you’re about to get into as soon as the “A Troma Team Release” skyline appears at the start of it.
Don’t let that skyline scare you off. Not Another Mistake is slightly better than the average Troma film. Admittedly, that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.
Richard Norton plays Richard Straker, who served in a special ops unit during Vietnam and who was a key part of Operation Black Thunder. In other words, he’s a badass. After the war ended, Straker raised a family and found success as a businessman. One night, he returns home and interrupts a home invasion. He kills the thugs but not before his wife and daughter each suffer a slow motion death. (Straker has Vietnam flashbacks while shooting the thugs.) Straker spends a year drinking and then goes to Vietnam to lead a raid on a POW camp. What’s interesting is that Straker’s family being murdered doesn’t really figure into the rest of the plot. He never brings up his tragic past nor does it appear to have made him more willing to take crazy risks or anything else you’d expect it to do. Instead, his family is gunned down because I guess the movie had to start in some way.
Once Straker is sent to Vietnam, he’s given a ragtag group of soldiers to command. None of the soldiers have any personality but then again, neither do any of the POWs or the camp guards or anyone else in the movie, other than Straker. Richard Norton has appeared in a lot of movies like this and his appeal has always been that he seems like he could probably do everything that he does on film in real life. Norton is convincing in the action scenes and he does okay in the big dramatic scenes, like when he rescues an old friend, just to discover that, after years in a POW camp, the man is nearly dead.
It takes a while for Not Another Mistake to really get going. There’s a lot of extremely dark jungle scenes where you can’t really see what’s going on. Things pick up once they get to the POW camp and the rescue operation leads to some exciting action scenes. There’s a good chase scene on a train and this film features some of my favorite example of one man being able to blow up gigantic buildings with just one grenade launcher. One thing that I appreciated about the film is that it attempted to be honest about what type of state a person would be in after spending 20 years in a POW camp. This isn’t one of those films where the POWs can pick up a discarded machine gun and immediately follow Chuck Norris into battle. Also, as easy as it is compare Not Another Mistake to the other POW rescue films of the 80s, it has a surprisingly dark and abrupt ending, which suggests that maybe the film was meant to be more than just an exercise in jingoistic wish fulfillment. It’s the type of sober ending that you never would have seen happen to Norris or Sylvester Stallone but Richard Norton handles it like a champ.
Too long by at least 30 minutes and severely hampered by a low budget, Not Another Mistake still has enough surprises and enough Richard Norton to stand out from the rest of the POW rescue genre. If you’re a fan of the genre, watching this won’t be another mistake.