Chuck Fucking Norris, man. Is there anything this man can not do?
In Missing in Action, he plays Colonel James Braddock, an army intelligence officer. For a career military man, his long hair and his beard are definitely against regulations but who is going to tell Chuck Norris to get a haircut? Ten years ago, Braddock escaped from a POW camp in North Vietnam. Haunted by nightmares and still convinced that there are American POWs in Vietnam, Braddock is inspired by an episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (I am not joking!) to accompany a U.S. Senator on a fact-finding trip to Ho Chi Minh City. It’s there that Braddock uncovers evidence that American soldiers are being held prisoner by the evil General Trau (James Hong). With the government refusing to help him, Braddock is forced to go to Thailand, where he hooks up with an old friend, a former soldier turned black marketeer named Tuck (M. Emmett Walsh). Braddock and Tuck head into the jungle, to both rescue the POWs and to remind the world that, no matter what a bunch of pointy-headed lefties might say, Americans never lose a war!
A blatant rip-off of the Rambo films, Missing in Action was one of Cannon Films’ most financially successful movies. Seen today, Missing in Action is borderline xenophobic and it takes forever for the action to really get started. I was surprised by the number of scenes that were devoted to Braddock looking for evidence that the POWs were still in Vietnam, as if there was ever any real suspense about what Braddock would find. (No POWs = no movie.)
On the positive side, once it finally starts, the action is exciting. Joseph Zito was a veteran genre director and he know how to handle a battle scene. Unfortunately, in this one, Chuck does most of his fighting with a machine gun instead of his hands. This is also one of the first movies where Chuck Norris has the full beard going. The beard serves to distract from what a stiff actor Chuck Norris usually was and it does its job in Missing in Action. When it comes to picking a Chuck Norris film to watch, it’s a good idea to see how much facial hair will be featured. If Chuck has a beard, definitely watch. If Chuck only has a mustache, proceed with caution but, if there’s nothing else to watch, give the movie a chance. If Chuck is clean-shaven and Bruce Lee is nowhere to be seen, throw the movie back and never speak of it again.
Missing in Action was shot back-to-back with what eventually became known as Missing in Action 2: The Beginning. Originally, The Beginning was meant to be released first and Missing in Action was intended to be a sequel. However, once the execs at Cannon saw the footage, they deemed The Beginning to be unreleasable and instead sent Missing in Action out to theaters. (A movie so bad that even Cannon was hesitant to release it? It boggles the mind.) Missing in Action was such a box office success and The Beginning was subsequently released as a prequel. However, when it comes to Norris/Cannon films, Invasion USA is the one to watch. That one has a bearded Chuck and Richard Lynch!