Ever since Stallone came out with First Blood, introducing the world to John Rambo (and an excellent movie) the eighties gave us a never ending supply of movies about ex-vietnam prisoners of war with a badass military background. Most of these movies were produced by Cannon films. In fact, if you haven't had the chance to see Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films, I highly recommend that you do.
Missing In Action (and the sequel) were highly "inspired" by James Cameron's script treatment of Rambo; First Blood Part II. It was so inspired, Cannon made sure to start the film before Rambo to avoid any legal entanglements that would have ensued. The premise behind Missing In Action is this:
Chuck Norris leads a group of other Vietnam War Veterans to rescue any U.S. soldiers that are being held prisoner in the camps of the enemy (Ho Chi Minh City). When he finds out the truth, Braddock (Norris) heads to Thailand to meet up with a buddy of his, Tuck (M. Emmet Walsh), a black market kingpin and together they hatch a plan to get their friends out of the prison camp.
Before there was the argument of David Lee Roth Vs. Sammy Hagar, there was the Sylvester Stallone Vs (insert action hero here). Depending on which movie came out at that time, it always came down to who would be better. Well, you couldn't get any closer to having two stars in the same movie as M.I.A and Rambo: First Blood Part II.
With all of the Chuck Norris jokes being put aside here, Missing in Action is really not that good of a movie. But it's so bad, it's actually fun to watch. It's so patriotic and pro-American it's almost sickeningly sweet. Chuck Norris is a one man army that goes into enemy territory, blows things up, shoots people and, in the course of the action, manages to get captured, only to karate his way out of the mess.
These movies were always full of the same plot lines. There always has to be a friend that knows everything, he's the guy the lives in the area, black market expert (or at least knows the right people), the CIA contact (usually female) "love interest" who gets captured, but survives, the hostages, the bad guy that was a good guy until the hero "done him wrong" and of course the mysterious bad guy. He was the one that the hero defeated, either earlier in the picture or off screen years before, he still manages to monologue to the hero, all of his plans and how they are going to restart the "war, world, government or the universe itself" depending on how megalomaniacal they are.
This movie, obviously, is no different from Rambo First Blood Part 2, the only exception is that Braddock (Norris) doesn't use a bow and arrow to execute his enemies. He goes one better, but manhandling an M60 machine gun and scissor kicking the enemies faces off. There are moments of doubt with Braddock when he thinks he can't handle the burden of rescuing all of the hostages or going after the girl he yearns for, but he also has a reflective moment when he sees the man that had imprisoned him all those years ago and now he just wants revenge. The sweet, sweet bubbly taste of revenge.
Norris not only manages to rescue everyone without losing any of the main characters, but he's also able to get justice for his imprisonment at the hands of General Trau (played by James Hong, Mr. David Lo Pan himself!). Through all of the suffering and all of the torture (both the actor and the viewer) Norris kicks the asses of all those around him and some of the people in the audience, as he manages to escape and blow up the entire camp.
Not only does Norris rescue his fellow camp mates, he also rescues the hearts and minds of all the Patriotic Americans that have watched this movie. We salute you Chuck Norris and your fist beard.
Missing in Action (1984)
R | 1h 41min | Action, Adventure, Drama | 16 November 1984 (USA)
Colonel James Braddock is an American officer who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, then escaped 10 years ago. After the bloodiest war, Braddock accompanies a government to resuce hostages at the same POW camp he escaped from.
Director: Joseph Zito
Writers: Arthur Silver (characters), Larry Levinson (characters)
Stars: Chuck Norris, M. Emmet Walsh, David Tress