I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Missing in Action

tn_miaI don’t know about you guys, but I’m still not a member of the Chuck Norris Fan Club. (Unless somebody got me a membership as a prank, but as far as I know that’s not true.) But I decided to watch his first movie with Cannon (a relationship that also produced a prequel, a sequel, a DELTA FORCE, a second DELTA FORCE, a job for his son on a third DELTA FORCE, and by far his most entertaining starring vehicle I’ve seen, INVASION U.S.A.). This one also has a political message based on a right wing pet cause, but it can’t quite match the outlandish cartoonishness of INVASION, and it’s much more emotionally manipulative. But I kinda enjoyed it.

The great music by Jay Chattaway (MANIAC, Star Trek: The Next Generation) gets your American flag erect during the Vietnam War opening where Braddock and his men patriotically terrorize some guerrillas until he decides to dive onto an enemy (and the camera) holding two grenades, only to wake up from a dream in the present.

This first post-prologue scene is, in my opinion, the second best scene in the movie. Braddock wakes up in his hot, dark apartment, clothes on (shirt unbuttoned), and sits holding his head as the news on the TV reports about an American delegation going to Ho Chi Minh City for talks about whether or not any of 2,500 M.I.A.s are still being held captive. He picks up a beer can from the floor and moves it. He slowly stands up and changes the channel to a Spider-man cartoon. He walks over to the kitchen. Gets a beer. Opens it. Drinks it. Gets it on his mustache. Walks over to the window. Curtains mostly closed, blinds down, he looks out across the street. On the TV, the villainous Shocker warns Spidey, “The next reunion will be your last!” Braddock flashes back to some enemies he’d like to have a reunion with, who captured and/or executed some of his buddies back in ‘Nam.

mp_miaWhen the flashback ends he walks over to the TV and stands there and watches the cartoon. Shocker is breaking out of a prison. Spidey is fighting a helicopter, then he swings in front of the American flag. Braddock is watching a Spider-man cartoon and it’s reminding him of ‘Nam! But he’s probly relating less to Spidey than to Shocker, who says “Spider-Man put me in that hole and now I’m gonna get even!”

He switches the channel and now the news is talking about him, how he masterminded an escape from a POW camp and is now “one of the most outspoken proponents of the theory that American prisoners are still being held in Vietnam today,” but he can’t prove it and he’s not part of the talks. Braddock sits on the bed, bows his head, closes his eyes and rubs his temples and then suddenly POW! STANDS UP AND KARATE KICKS THE TV AND IT FUCKING EXPLODES! SMASH CUT to him holding the phone.

“This is Braddock. I’ll go.”

The politics and machismo are of course very Chuck Norris and very Cannon, but the quietness and careful pace of the scene are very classy by their standards. I love the weird use of a cartoon on the TV to imply what he’s thinking about. That it’s Spider-man is either an in-joke or a coincidence because this is the year before Cannon optioned the film rights to the character for Tobe Hooper to direct. But this scene is also an (unintentional, I’m guessing?) admission of what we’re about to participate in here. Norris, whose younger brother died in the war, will attempt to transform the complexities of our nation’s lingering trauma, shame and lack of resolution into a problem that can be solved with the mentality of a crude Saturday morning super hero cartoon.

At the hearing, the sleazy and blatantly corrupt General Trau (James Hong, NINJA III and more than 400 other IMDb credits) denies that there are any remaining POWs, and accuses Braddock of being such a notorious war criminal that there was a bounty on his head, trotting out a bunch of terrified witnesses. Braddock is such a total dick– I mean, is so fucking awesome — that he won’t even take off his sunglasses. At least not until he walks up and gets in the faces of the witnesses. He’s not supposed to be intimidating them because he’s guilty, but because they’re lying about him. It works, and one apologizes to him. Obviously they were threatened into faking their testimony. Braddock tells the man it’s okay, he understands.

The funny thing about the scene, though, is that this is supposed to be SUCH AN OUTRAGEOUS LIE that he committed war crimes. But the opening scene had his buddies flying around in a helicopter with human skulls decorating the pontoons!

Braddock tells the general that the bounty was “for killing assholes like you,” and struts out of the barely-just-started hearing. Geez, you’re welcome for flying you in with our tax dollars, Prince Charming.

Coincidentally this guy’s main security goon Vinh (Ernie Ortega, RAMBUTO, NO BLOOD NO SURRENDER, ENTENG THE DRAGON) is the guy who ran the POW camp. Braddock walks up to him at the bar and says calmly, “I see you’ve come up in the world.” Okay, that’s pretty cool.

Like many Norris characters, Braddock represents masculinity turned up to 11. He has enough hair on his chest for five men, and thinks it’s a good idea to show this to everybody whenever possible. When the senator invites him over for a nightcap he walks into her room with a bottle of champagne and immediately starts taking his clothes off. He’s actually changing into his black sneaking-around-after-I-climb-out-the-window outfit, but he wants to make her feel sexually harassed first. When he finishes his clandestine mission and returns through the window the guards are about to storm in so he does a version of the old “grab the lady and pretend you’re kissing” fakeout where he rips her dress open and gets in bed with her like they’ve been fucking.

In the next scene she willingly kisses him.

He’s a funny character. Walking around in Bangkok a pimp tries to offer him his services and Braddock first ignores him, and when the guy asks again he quickly turns his head toward him and leans in his direction until he runs away. (Just say ‘no thank you,’ dude.)

He finds his old army buddy Tuck (M. Emmett Walsh) at Madame Pearl’s Whorehouse. Tuck is the prototypical Hawaiian-shirt-wearing-ex-military-guy-turned-shady-American-living-in-Asia old friend character (see also Max Thayer in NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2). He has a pretty great introduction: Braddock walks into the lounge, where an interesting amateur rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” is being performed, and tells Madame Pearl “I’m looking for Jack Tucker.”

“He’ll be here in a moment,” she says, and sure enough he’s thrown over a balcony onto the table because he owes some money. I think they were intentionally thinking Han Solo here, because Braddock hires him for his boat and when he sees it he says it’s a piece of crap and then Tuck defends its speed.

The best scene in the movie is another long quiet one with Braddock alone in a room during the day doing mundane things. It starts with an unbroken one minute and six second shot that starts on the wardrobe as he enters his hotel room. He walks across the room, puts his coat on the table, unbuttons his shirt, takes it off, folds it over, puts it on the table, takes another shirt out of his bag, puts it on, buttons it up, looks out the window, tucks in the shirt as he walks over to the wardrobe, stands there and rolls up one sleeve, then the other, opens the wardrobe, AND THERE IS A GUY INSIDE WITH HIS KNIFE RAISED TO STAB HIM. As they struggle that original shot continues another 15 seconds before finally cutting.

Braddock ends up kicking the attacker several times against the wardrobe and then through the window onto a cart on the street in a pretty great stunt. When he walks over to the window to see the damage he also notices Vinh watching him from a building across the street. And then another guy walks up to the window aiming a bazooka. OH SHIT, Braddock runs and flies through the door into the smoking hallway as his whole room blows up.

On the streets there’s panic and terror and people crying everywhere. I think the idea of this scene is that yes, innocent civilians were killed in Vietnam, but Braddock and the stars and stripes totally didn’t do it, it was the Viet Cong. But he doesn’t help anybody or even ask if they’re okay, he just stands and watches wailing parents carry away their injured children as he very slightly shakes his head to signal his disapproval of this carnage.

Luckily they lighten the mood with a genuinely funny comic relief line. He goes to find Tuck, opens the door and finds him in bed with a naked woman on each arm. “Braddock!” Tuck says, happy to see him. “Hey, hop in!”

But Braddock thinks he’s found the prisoners and is ready to launch the rescue mission. Tucker doesn’t want to go, he just stays on the raft. Day becomes night and then day again and yet he doesn’t seem bothered by how long he has to wait there. I hope he brought some protein bars or something. This is a nice storytelling convenience also used in AMERICAN NINJA 3 when Steve James just waits at the truck for like a day and a half while David Bradley breaks into a place.

Anyway, Braddock goes in by himself, shoots many, many bullets, causes several large fiery explosions, rescues Vietnamese prisoners from the cages he thought the Americans were in, then goes to where the Americans are and rescues them. Tucker, being Han Solo (from STAR WARS), is so moved by the sight of them that during the boat escape he says “I’ll see you in Hell!” and voluntarily swims over to a gunship to give them cover as they climb onto a helicopter ladder.

Braddock has the chopper fly right to Saigon, where the hearings are still taking place, and land in front. This would be a total dick move even if it wasn’t deliberately terrorizing a foreign civilian population. There’s a shot of dozens of civilians screaming and fleeing as it comes down and the air from its rotors blows papers everywhere and knocks down a bicycle.  Braddock and the boys jump out with their army greens and storm in like they’re invading the country. Inside, just as the panel concludes that “we categorically deny that there are any living MIAs in the People’s Republic of Vietnam” Braddock fights through the guards at the door and carries in a limping MIA soldier, shocking the world. And it freeze frames on Braddock’s proud smile.

It’s an effectively badass ending that also betrays how full of shit the movie is. What does it say about the priorities of these filmmakers that their idea of the climax is not rescuing the prisoners who have been suffering for more than a decade, but making some asshole bureaucrat look like a dick in public? It’s a stick-it-to-the-man but based on the made up premise that there are these secret prisoners and then that there’s this asshole who says there aren’t these secret prisoners. Take that, made up asshole! USA! USA!

I always assumed MISSING IN ACTION was a quickie rip-off of RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, but until reading up on it now I never realized how quick. Allegedly Cannon read James Cameron’s RAMBO story treatment and rushed this into production so fast they had it and part II out shortly before RAMBO. According to the documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (which I finally saw and enjoyed), Cannon decided to release the first movie second, as a prequel, because they thought it was bad and would stop people from watching the other one.

NOTE: Wikipedia says the thing about them reading the Cameron treatment, but it cites as its source two reviews that don’t cite their sources. I’m a little suspicious. It also could’ve been inspired by UNCOMMON VALOR, which was already about the conspiracy theory that there were still P.O.W.s left in Vietnam and the government refused to acknowledge it so a military man took it upon himself to go get his boys back. But Gene Hackman’s character had to recruit an elite team, get satellite photos, build a duplicate of the place, make a detailed plan and train the team for the mission. In Chuck’s version, obviously, he goes in by himself and wings it. On a whim after watching a Spider-man cartoon. At one point when Tucker is questioning their escape plans Braddock says, “We’ll figure something out.” Not that comforting.

The script is credited to James Bruner ( INVASION U.S.A., DELTA FORCE 1 and 2), story by John Crowther (KILL AND KILL AGAIN) & Lance Hool (director of part 2 and STEEL DAWN). Arthur Silver (Happy Days) & Larry Levinson (Laverne & Shirley) & Steve Bing (KANGAROO JACK) get a “characters by” credit since they wrote part 2 and it was actually first. Director Joseph Zito had come out of horror movies (including THE PROWLER and FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER) and followed this with the also-anti-commie INVASION U.S.A. and the also-M.-Emmet-Walsh-having RED SCORPION.

Braddock is pretty much the same as Norris’s character in INVASION U.S.A.: implacable, infallible, sure of the correctness of his views, silently angry, cartoonishly manly. This makes him very different from Rambo, who despite being a similarly stoic one man army is very emotionally vulnerable and introspective. I haven’t watched MISSING IN ACTION parts 2 or 3 yet, but so far it seems like Braddock would never open up and cry to his colonel, or live in a Buddhist temple trying to get away from violence. This makes him kind of a funnier character than Rambo, but he has less depth, which is dicey when working with this politically loaded material.

I’ll admit, Chuck Norris’s politics rub me the wrong way more than other action stars. By all accounts he is an extremely nice person who has done many good things for people, but his activism makes him seem like a huge asshole. How can you make your living from violent action movies, then stump for Mike Huckabee, a judgmental prude with a stick so far up his ass he publicly scolded the Obamas for allowing their daughters to listen to Beyonce? And how can you come to fame and fortune through the Japanese artform of karate, and get training and a career in movies from Bruce Lee, an immigrant, then have a bunch of anti-immigrant paranoia on your websight? He’s since changed his rhetoric on that, fortunately, but I can’t forget it. His body of work is not good enough, and his self expression is not nuanced enough, for me to be as forgiving of him saying stupid shit as I am with actual great artists like Clint or Sly.

So I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this one. The combination of its over-the-top machismo, the sincerity of its asinine world view and a few grace notes from Zito make for one of the better Norris movies, for whatever that’s worth.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2016 at 7:59 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

48 Responses to “Missing in Action”

  1. Oddly enough, there was also a story titled “Missing in Action” that ran across Spider-Man titles for a month or so in 1986. As a kid, I was convinced they somehow tied into the Chuck Norris movie.

  2. I always preferred Invasion USA, but enjoyed Missing in Action more than Delta Force. While still having big jangly jingoistic bells on it, Invasion USA has a badass badguy, tanks, and blu-flame uzis. You can forgive it for being so damn Gung Ho American because it’s so enjoyably silly. Delta Force, on the other hand, is so blatantly political that you almost forget it’s an actual made up action movie (though the concept is sort of based on history). Though, to be fair, it does have motor cycles with bombs in the exhaustpipes.

    Missing in Action, I feel, sits well in between both films.

    Chuck has always had a weird way about him, and his unwillingness to swear and so fourth when he was in the Expendables kind of makes you think he hasn’t mellowed with age. If anything, he’s become even stiffer than those denim clad roundhouse kicks he’s so famed for.

    Retro Review: Invasion USA

    You know, I’ve never appreciated Chuck Norris. On paper, he’s as badass as they come; black belts in multiple disciplines, roles in countless action movies alongside the crème-de-la-crème of action…

  3. I always preferred the second one, just because it was so much more intense, more of a proto-torture porn thriller than a straight-ahead action movie. But I recently revisited this one and liked it. It’s got lots of great ridiculous carnage like you could only get from a mid-budget Cannon movie.

    I think I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Joseph Zito was a damn good director who just happened to work in disreputable genres. All of his movies should merely be workmanlike affairs, but he found opportunities for artistry, character, and atmosphere wherever he could. Every single one of his movies is better than it has any reasonable right to be. It’s just too bad that the Hollywood gatekeepers took a look at his filmography and saw only gore and explosions. I think he had it in him to do more. (But he also should have kept doing gore and explosions, because he was good at them.)

  4. It’s funny, these right wing actors – Reagan, Norris, Eastwood, Willis etc. – they keep on making movies with the same story line; the hero comes to a place ruled by a tyrant, they help the people to overthrow the bastard and then they leave. That’s anarchy, revolution, socialism and democracy. It has NOTHING to do with what they’re preaching in real life. If anything they’re supporters of the tyrant in the story.

    True story; In 1983 I believe, Clint Eastwood and William Shatner helped Vietnam vet James Gritz to fund a rescue mission to Laos. He was arrested together with four other Americans in Thailand and sentenced to a year in prison. Where were Braddock and Rambo then?

  5. The scene in which Braddock sneaks into James Hongs lair is, if memory serves me right, a pretty nice little scene and not something you´d expect to find in a Norris vehicle

  6. Mr Majestyk, I bet you know this, but the second one was actually filmed first. Making this the sequel.

  7. pegsman, stop confusing us with your non-linear thinking. Of course this is the first. It doesn´t even has a “two” in the title!

  8. I’m aware of the production history, but I’m going by the actual titling and release chronology.

  9. I can’t really remember the second one very clear except that he was a POW for a hot minute but I must say BRADDOCK: MISSING IN ACTION III is freaking hilarious for so many reasons.

    The title makes it see like that would be the one to rip off RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PT II. but it actually has more in common with RAMBO III: NOT FIRST BLOOD PT. III than anything else while also openly and nonchalantly contradicting everything we learned in the previous 2 and painting Braddock as even more of a selfish jerkoff even though he was still our protagonist.

    It was like a provocative attempt at a reboot/sequel like we see today albeit likely very unintentionally. I think that was more of a circunstance of the producers and Chuck himself to not really giving a fuck than it was an intentional attempt at a bolder type of approach to a Canon sequel DEATH WISH 3 style.

  10. You really need to give Chuck’s pre-Canon films stuff a watch, Vern, I think it’s much more interesting and up your alley.
    Specifically, the biggest highlights being Eye for an Eye (with richard roundtree, mako, and christopher lee!) and Silent Rage (a pretty effective Halloween ripoff slasher that collides with a chuck norris movie).

  11. THE OCTAGON is pretty great as you get some insight into Chucks mind, his stream of consciousness if you will. It echoes inside his mind, did you know that?

  12. What about LONE WOLF MCQUADE? Is that one any good? I saw it as a little kid, but have almost no memory of it, other than LQ Jones looked at Lone Wolf’s cards when he left the room and then pointed a gun at their prisoner and told him “Loose lips sinks ships”, but I think my brothers and dad liked it. And what did I know as a little kid? I also liked Three’s Company, even though 90% of it went over my head and which is now embarrassingly stupid, sexist and homophobic.

  13. Maggie- I like LONE WOLF. It is one of perhaps three good or at least watchable Norris films.

  14. I really like Eye for an Eye. May not be an action classic but it’s hard to beat that supporting cast and it is a lot of fun.

  15. All these missing soldiers in Vietnam movies are kind of fascinating time capsules. It’s weird the way that people really wanted to hold onto the (totally false) idea that Vietnam was still holding American prisoners. It says something about the American psyche after the Vietnam War. We just couldn’t accept that it was over and that we had lost. At the same time, I guess this MIA narrative also speaks to a more legitimate concern that the U.S. government wasn’t taking care of soldiers after the war was over.

  16. geoffreyjar-I always really liked Eye For An Eye as a teen-ager, especially with the awesome supporting cast. Having seen it again recently, I was let down. Norris’ “acting” is so sub-par (and this is even without letting the subject of his political leanings color my view) that it drags the whole movie down.

    RBatty024-If memory serves, there wasn’t much talk of MIA’s being held during the ’70s, but once Reaganmania hit it became a big thing. It was so jingoistic and self-serving, especially as Ronnie himself cited Rambo as one of his favorite movies.

  17. Funny, the one and only time I watched Missing in Action, I thought it was just depressing. Not like it’s a tragedy that Vietnam veterans were treated so badly, like Rambo is a beautiful tragedy. Just those scenes of Chuck waking up and going to the hearings just seemed miserable. Maybe I’d have a new appreciation of it with my maturity.

    And suppose I have to each the sequels at some point. I should be thrilled there’s still a franchise I haven’t seen all the way through!

  18. The (only?) watchable Norris movies are in my opinion SILENT RAGE, FORCED VENGEANCE and LONE WOLF MCQUADE. And With “watchable” I mean not unintentionally funny.

  19. But the unintentional humor is the only thing that makes Chuck Norris watchable.

  20. I was just about to say that. Some of Chucks earlier works, with the exception for THE OCTAGOn feels just like generic pieces of action films made by a part time truck driver

  21. Zemo – That makes sense. The 70s were about reflecting on what made us America and perhaps how to live in the larger world, but the 80s were the return of unthinking jingoism.

    Vern’s description of this film’s ending kind of reminds me of the modern day conservative movement. For a long time, supporting the troops was synonymous with supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea that opposing poorly thought out military interventions abroad could also be a form of supporting the troops was unheard of. Public discourse had managed to completely squash all skepticism of these wars.

    But as the recent comments by Trump have made clear, conservatives only care about our troops when caring about them supports their beliefs. I mean, Trump was able to mock John McCain for being captured and tortured, and his popularity only went up. So, like in the end of this film, the captured soldiers aren’t taken to the hospital; they’re taken to a public hearing to be used as props for an ultra-nationalist, interventionist ideology.

  22. I never got much into most Norris action movies but I liked Firewalker as a kid and I’d throw in Sidekicks. Though that was more a Brandis vehicle.

    I still remember the bit, I’m guessing, in the second one, where he’s being hung upside down and the evil commander puts a rat into a bag and sticks it on Norris’s head and laughs when he sees the blood soak the bag only to be disappointed once the bag is removed to find Norris has killed the rat with his teeth.

  23. I remember loving SILENT RAGE as a kid just for the concept of the guy who heals instantly. This was way before I heard of Wolverine. I re watched it recently and it’s kind of terrible. Norris spends most of his time fighting asshole bikers or in interminable love scenes and just fights the killer at the end. The idea of defeating an unstoppable killing machine with a bunch of roundhouse kicks is pretty lame. I think it would have been a much better movie without any Chuck Norris at all. But that can be said for all movies.

  24. SILENT RAGE was my favorite when I was a kid but I enjoyed MISSING IN ACTION as well (even though I thought the second one was better, I still think of that rat in the bag over the head torture scene on a regular basis.)

    Anyway, these films were of course ridiculously jingoistic, one-sided and pretty stupid. But let’s not act like the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge were fucking awesome. The US probably got involved for the wrong reasons or shouldn’t have gotten involved at all. But we ran like Hell out of Saigon and could very well have left soldiers behind. I know Nixon used POWs as a reason to keep the war going (he didn’t want to be the first US president to lose a war) and a lot of lives were lost because of it.

    Anyway, you’re still my favorite reviewer Vern and you have mostly excellent taste, but if you’re going to bring politics into it…

    Even though this and RAMBO and UNCOMMON VALOR are right wing masturbatory fantasies (Hollywood wins the war that Washington lost) let’s not act like holding onto POWs long after the conflict was unthinkable by the communists in Southeast Asia.

  25. Sunspot Mike – It’s not that the concept was unthinkable, just that it was, for the lack of a better term, a fantasy (and a jingoistic “We’re gonna get our boys home!” fantasy at that) that lacked any sort of solid proof. UNCOMMON VALOR at least had a solid script and some very good actors, but also came across less as a revenge-fantasy than MIA. Hackman & Co. weren’t going back to the Nam just to kill James Hong and prove they were right all along, they were going back because they felt like they had each left something back there.

    That’s not to say it’s any less of a fantasy, but I think it’s one that was handled more skillfully and with much less ire.

  26. Sunspot Mike – I don’t see where we disagree?

  27. Mr Majestyk, sure, but then it’s better to leave them alone. The three I mentioned actually works as action movies – especially LONE WOLF. John Milius said that it was a dry run before writing EXTREME PREJUDICE, and it shows.

  28. I disagree. I don’t think Norris has the chops to carry an actual movie. The ones that tend to get talked about as his good ones–LONE WOLF, CODE OF SILENCE, pretty sure that’s it–are held back by the unlikable knob at their center, making them less successful than the ridiculous ones that make his utter lack of charisma part of the program. You’ll never actually make a good movie with Norris in the lead, and the irony is that the closer you get to doing so, the worse the movie becomes. It’s smarter to admit that he’s just a stupid cartoon and run with that.

  29. I agree with you completely. But back in the early 80’s, after the Bruce mania had calmed down and before Jackie and Jean Claude had gotten hold of the video market, there was a short period when Mr Norris was the main provider of martial arts on film. And of the movies that got released over here there was a couple that either had a story or some action scenes that tickled my fancy. But they were in no way good movies. In fact, they could have starred anybody. LONE WOLF MCQUADE was originally written as a vehicle for Kris Kristofferson, I think.

  30. I think we all earned gold stars for not making any of those out-dated, arguably never that funny Chuck Norris jokes that were popular for five minutes back in the early-2000s.

  31. Pegs: I definitely remember when Chuck was hot shit. I watched all his movies on general principle and still have some fondness for a lot of them, despite how lackluster I now realize he is. But he’s part of the legacy of the genre I love so I can never dismiss him entirely. He kept the light on until the next wave of honkey kickpunchers arrived.

  32. I guess I just got annoyed because even if the premise of the film might not have been true and the U.S. would have been better off staying out of a country’s civil war, it’s not like the North Vietnamese were super nice good guys. They regularly tortured prisoners (and not just psychological games, but Jack Bauer-style physical torture) until at least 1969.

    I think the review implies that there’s something wrong for someone to feel a desire for vengeance against an enemy that tortured your soldiers. People are naturally going to feel that. This movie, Rambo, and others (even the A-Team went back to ‘Nam in their last season) provided a little bit of catharsis for those feelings.

    But the veracity of the premise to me doesn’t affect my opinion of the work, which should stand on its merits outside of its politics. Even if the NVA was still holding prisoners, that doesn’t change the fact that Chuck Norris can’t act his way out of a paper bag (unlike Stallone or Clint or even Arnold when used properly) so none of his movies are good in any traditional sense. But they can be pretty fun.

  33. Yeah, I mean, I said I liked the movie but that Rambo and UNCOMMON VALOR did it better.

  34. If I understand you correctly, Mike, you’re saying that even if you know the facts – or at least some of them – you want Vern to be more supportive of the fantasy world within these crappy movies?

  35. I was a bigger fan of MIA2 as a kid- probably because it felt more like Rambo 2- but prefer the 80s exploitation of the original today. The whole series is a guilty pleasure for me though, on par with the trio of Death Wish sequels Cannon did with Bronson.

    I disagree with Chuck’s politics but always got the impression his hard-right views didn’t come into play until he became super religious in the late 90s. You can actually chart a rough progression of this change by watching how it impacted the direction of Walker, Texas Ranger. The early seasons are close in tone to Chuck’s 80s work, with a healthy dose of violence and a strong emphasis on Native American mysticism. About halfway through, there’s a noticeable shift towards “message” episodes and the mysticism has been replaced by Christianity. Walker begins spending less time hanging out with shamans and more time helping neighborhood pastors and community centers.

  36. If we go way back, to GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK, he almost come across as a liberal…

  37. pegsman- you are now this site´s Official Chuck Norris Apologist

  38. I was afraid of that. But just because I have pointed out some facts, I’m in no way a Norrologist…

  39. “Pegsman is a Norwegian senior scholar scientist with a P.hd in Norrisology. Famous for his pieces “Kicking beards into cars” , “Bulletproof chesthair” and “Taking a right turn between explosions”, made him an overnight sensation in the world of academia.

    Source: Wikipedia

  40. My main field is Bronsology and BudSpencerology, but as you see I dabble in other genres.

    Thank you for the effort, Shoot…

  41. In Sweden your work within Norrisology is most noted. But your pieces “One Bronson does not make two right” or ” Hairy italian fists makes a mark” are very insightful.

  42. pegsman – Yes, Chuck’s early films have a different tone to them and are generally all over the place in terms of genre. I don’t think studios really knew what to do with him until the emergence of the beard.

    You’re also right about that period of time when Chuck served as the primary source for martial arts flicks in the US. Enter The Ninja is generally credited with kicking off the ninja craze of the early eighties, but The Octagon got there a full year earlier.

    Chuck was also a prolific actor, often having multiple films released in the same year. He was like the KISS of action films in that respect. (The sequel to Missing In Action was released just a little over 3 months later!) Perhaps it’s because I was the perfect age to soak it up at the time but I still have a lot of nostalgia for those films. Sure they’re jingoistic and dumb as hell, but so were most of the action flicks coming out during that era.

    So I may not agree with his modern views on politics, but that doesn’t influence or diminish my memories of the past. Even Chuck admits he was a much different person back then- and crazier, as the most infamous scene in Missing In Action 2 will attest. (Which I won’t spoil since Vern hasn’t seen that one yet.)

  43. Shoot, I have a lot of platonic love for you right now!

  44. Anybody watching the Ken Burns PBS Vietnam series? I’m halfway through, and I’d honestly say that if it weren’t for TWIN PEAKS this might be the height of television this year.

  45. If it weren’t for the Vietnam war America would be a groovy mid-century world of tomorrow utopia.

  46. But then we would’ve never gotten FULL METAL JACKET, FIRST BLOOD or UNCOMMON VALOR so I’m kinda glad that history played out the way it did regardless of how shitty that war was on our country and veterans.

  47. Oh and of course those 2 little movies with Martin Sheen and his son as their respective protagonists.

  48. The way Burns and Novick have made very real the tropes of those movies and others, hits home with me. And on a personal level too, knowing of so many in my family that served over there. I have noticed a trend of “period pieces” lately that seem to trade in nostalgia for pathos. Kathryn Bigelow’s DETROIT from this year, and JACKIE from last year particularly, seem to be showing that time in a way that brings out the psychological wear and tension that brings it closer to a modern reality.

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