Sunday, August 05, 2007

For those of you who thought "Rambo" was too cerebral and nuanced: "Missing in Action"

Seriously, I knew this was going to be laughable compared to "The Deer Hunter" and "Platoon." I wouldn't have guessed that it made the same-era movie featuring Sly Stallone seem like a thoughtful treatise on American-Asian relations.

I had seen both "First Blood" and "Rambo: First Blood, Part II" when I was a teen, but somehow I missed another fine film from the Reagan era, "Missing in Action," starring the legendary Chuck Norris. That was a shame, since Stallone and Norris together inspired one of the funnier "Saturday Night Live" skits from the '80s: "Die, Foreigner, Die!" As two musclebound guys -- shown from the chest down -- empty machine guns, an announcer tells of how they're wiping out every non-American, including "Red Chinese ... no, make that ALL Chinese!" and "Indians (Both kinds!)" Yeah, Indians are Americans, too, but who's counting?

Anyway, before we get to the rip job ... I mean, review ... a couple of disclosures:

1. I remember seeing this a couple of years ago, and it's still funny:

2. I will defend to my death the guilty-pleasure value of "Lone Wolf McQuade," easily my favorite Chuck Norris movie. From the sight of Norris, six-pack in hand, driving his Bronco out from where it was buried to villian David Carradine delivering the classic line, "Welcome to my hacienda, Mr. McQuade" just before they throw down, it's priceless schlock all the way. Love it.

That said, "Missing in Action" -- even with a generous benefit of the doubt -- blows. And no, it's not so bad it's good. Nope. Not at all.

Our story follows a former Vietnam POW (guess who) as he returns to 'Nam, where he's convinced some MIAs are still being held by former VC. You'd think they're SOL, but Chuck is on the case ASAP with plans to get the prisoners out PDQ. OK?

It's a simple plot, which makes sense considering its one of those great Golan-Globus movies. Honestly, I don't know who Golan or Globus is, but they made a lot of cheesy '80s movies, i.e. "Death Wish 2," "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" and, yep, "Missing in Action 2." Oh, and get a load of this tidbit on "MIA" from IMDB: "Filmed together with 'Missing In Action 2,' this film was supposed to be the sequel. However, when the producers realized this film was the better of the two, they simply renamed them and made the other film a prequel to this." Wait, "the better of the two?" Whoa.

Norris does the whole stoic/tough/badass thing, but even if he was a huge martial arts champion, the fair hair and fuzzy face just don't seem that intimidating. Also -- and it pains me to say this -- the movie is kind of boring. Really. It mostly pokes along, and even the car chases and bang-bang aren't that great. I mean, we know not to expect Chuck to channel Brando, but at least keep things moving along here.

Even the presence of M. Emmet Walsh and classic "That (Asian) Guy" James Hong don't help. I'll probably take away from this exactly one scene that I vaguely remember seeing in a clip before I saw the actual movie: Norris, thrown from a boat, bursting through the surface of the water with machine gun at the ready to take down the bad guys. Otherwise, when it comes to haunted Vietnam vets, give me a mumbling Sly any day.


At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extremely sad that there is an excruciating message board thread on IMDb on whether "Missing in Action" or "Rambo" is the better movie. Almost as sad as the time I spent reading it.

But what the heck -- "Lone Wolf McQuade" or "Extreme Prejudice"? Discuss.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Jefferson said...

Yeah, I spent a few minutes on that. Then came the tears of shame.

As for LWM vs. EP, I was all ready to bellow, "Are you mad?" Then I checked IMDB. You may like this because of Walter Hill, but check out this excellent collection of B-Movie Players and Not-Quite-Stars:
- Powers Boothe
- Michael Ironside
- Clancy Brown
- Rip Torn
- Bill Forsythe

If that's not enough -- and it's plenty -- we even get Tiny Lister! I need to see this again. Soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home