Scientists have worked tirelessly since the invention of Blu-ray looking for a way to capture the essence of Chuck Norris onto a high-definition disc. No matter how hard they tried though his fists, jaw and body hair refused to be contained long enough for the transfer to take. But finally, in the year of our Lord 2012, six years after the format’s debut… they’ve succeeded.

Seven of Chuck Norris’ classics are now available in HD.

Missing In Action (1984) is one of Chuck Norris‘ most popular titles for a few reasons. It was released at the apex of his film career, it has a fairly high body count and it appeals to the patriot in all of us. It also plays to a fantasy as appealing as any revenge thriller… the idea that Americans are still being held prisoner in Vietnam. It wasn’t the best do to so (Uncommon Valor) or the one with the most slurring (Rambo: First Blood Part Two), but it was the only one with Norris. Unless you count the two sequels.

James Braddock (Norris) is a Vietnam veteran who spent time in a POW camp before finally escaping a decade after the war ended. He returns a few years later as part of a diplomatic mission to confirm once and for all if American soldiers remain, but Braddock trusts the Commies about as far as he could spit ‘em… and since he’d never take a red bastard in his mouth that isn’t very far at all. With both the Vietnamese government and American politicians demanding he behave he sets out into the jungle to bring his men home.

Movie

The film opens with Braddock leading his men out of bondage to the flash of an M-16 muzzle and grenade explosions. It’s a dream he wakes from but a nightmare he continues to live as he knows in his dark heart that US soldiers remain captive in the jungles of Vietnam. He gets a call to join a political fact-finding mission to the country with the goal of setting the record straight, but while the senator he’s accompanying is looking for political points with the Vietnamese officials Braddock only wants the truth.

He quickly recognizes the press conference as a sham when locals are trotted out to testify about the evil war crimes he supposedly committed during the war. Under the watchful eye of government agents he sets out at night on an intelligence mission of his own, but when that results in the death of a high-ranking Vietnamese officer Braddock is booted out of the country.

But he’s never been one for worrying about lines on a map so he heads back into the jungle armed with guns, M Emmet Walsh and an assault raft with a stealth muffler. Time and the odds are against him, but Braddock refuses to leave another man behind.

Chuck Norris Missing in Action

Missing In Action is a fun slice of revisionist history as it allows something good to come out of the otherwise failure that was Vietnam. It’s not a war the US can accurately claim victory in, but some small satisfaction can be found in the severe spanking of the bad guys and the rescue of American servicemen years later. Norris’ acting style, what the French call “flat”, is well suited to the straight-forward, no nonsense Braddock and his kill ‘em all mentality.

As you can see from the tally below the kill count is fairly high here which translates into numerous action scenes as Braddock searches for, finds and attempts to rescue the POWs. One of Norris’ iconic images can be found here, the shot of him rising in slow motion from the water, M-60 blazing into the enemies’ guts, and it remains a cheer-worthy moment.

What surprises here though is the level of emotion and suspense the third act generates as Braddock attempts to not only rescue the men but also prove to the world their existence. The film’s final shot is fairly exhilarating which is an unexpected reaction for a Norris movie. The same can be said for the degree of suspense built up during Braddock’s nighttime jaunt in Hanoi and race to return to his hotel.

None of that stops the movie from being highly unbelievable though. The scenes where they accurately fire M-16s from their hips are ludicrous, as are the numerous exploding trees and bamboo buildings, but none of that gets in the way of the fun.

And now, the only stats that matter:

  • Chuck beats up – 6 bad guys!
  • Chuck kills – 51 bad guys!
  • Chuck gets shirtless at the – 9:23 mark!

Blu-ray

MGM/Fox’s new Blu-ray looks good, certainly better than the previous DVD incarnations, but the only extra feature is a trailer.

Final Thoughts

Missing In Action is often the first film to come to mind when someone mentions Chuck Norris. It’s not his best work, but the movie hits all the right buttons action-wise and still manages some suspense and emotion along the way. See it if you love America. Or don’t. This is America after all, the country that gave you the freedom to choose whether or not to watch the movie, so do whatever you want.

Buy Missing In Action on Blu-ray from Amazon


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