Missing in Action (1984)

“Where are the American M.I.A.s?”

Synopsis:
An embittered veteran (Chuck Norris) returns to Vietnam to rescue missing prisoners of war, enlisting the help of his buddy (M. Emmett Walsh).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary’s inclusion of this “huge [Chuck Norris] hit” in Guide for the Film Fanatic is suspect at best, given that he labels it “surprisingly passionless and boring”, and laments its “predictable” storyline. He notes that there is “not enough dialogue”, and argues that even for a Norris film, the “action sequences seem familiar”. He further adds that “the lack of regard for human lives is appalling”, that the film is “directed with no feeling for [the] subject”, and that “Norris looks like he needs some Geritol” (ouch).

So why, pray tell, does he deem this piece of cinematic drek must-see? Presumably its box-office status (close to the time of GFTFF‘s publication in 1986) was enough to cause Peary to believe that all film fanatics should at least be familiar with it — but this is certainly no longer the case. In truth, this really is a painfully boring “action” flick, one which (I don’t mind admitting) I watched in fast-forward mode throughout the entire second half, without missing much. (As Peary notes, even the action sequences “take forever to develop”.) And, since Norris “uses guns more than karate”, there aren’t even many fight sequences to look forward to. By the way, I’m not a total Norris-snob — in fact, I’ve given a must-see “thumbs up” to his next film, Code of Silence (1985), and strongly recommend that you consider this film your required “dose of Norris” (whose iconic status as the ultimate in laconic action heroes has, interestingly, continued to grow exponentially in recent years).

P.S. There is some minimally campy humor to be found throughout the film, in terms of how often Norris finds excuses to go bare-chested in front of the camera, for instance, or in his consistently “soulful” gaze as he contemplates what he knows he must go back to Vietnam (the “pearl of the Orient”) to do — but there’s not nearly enough of this to make it worth subjecting yourself to the entire film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some beautiful on-location scenery (in Thailand)

Must See?
No; despite its dubious notoriety, this one definitely can be skipped.

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One Response to “Missing in Action (1984)”

  1. Chuck Norris movies never really came across my radar as I was growing up. Almost all of them were R rated, and by the time I was old enough to watch them, I still never bothered to try any of them until recently.

    I’ve seen Delta Force and Invasion USA, and want to see Code of Silence at some point. Chuck Norris’s movies are so campy and ridiculous that even when the last one you saw wasn’t even good, you still feel compelled to give another one a try. For me, I think some of it is a bit of nostalgia for action pics and my own desire to escape from the current blue-screen and CGI-dominated flicks from this genre.

    But Missing in Action is really just mediocre without any notable style or centerpiece. It goes through the motions with a predictable plot line. It has some okay blow-‘em-up sequences for a low budget film of this kind, but there’s no ‘wow’ in any of them despite the fine shooting locations, and nothing charming comes out of the cast or story.

    I showed my wife Rambo: First Blood Part II the other night as we have been watching mostly cheesy ‘80s movies with a bottle of the cheapest bubbly from Trader Joe’s on the weekends. By contrast, that movie has plenty of impressive looking action and visuals galore that overcomes the bare bones story development. It is funny to contrast those two movies as Peary did in Guide: same basic storyline and completely different styles.

    I agree that Peary most likely listed MIA because it was a then-recent hit. But compared to the couple others I saw, it would probably rank below those, but then how much better is the best Chuck Norris movie than the worst one?

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