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 2: The Beginning (1985) is the first and only prequel of Chuck Norris’ career. That’s a shame of course because some of us really want to know what made Jake Wilder such a tough cop in Top Dog. MIA 2 was released just a year after the first film found success at the box office, and by any account it’s an unnecessary direction to take. Not only did we already know he escaped from the POW camp but we also saw him escape again. But Hollywood’s sequel/remake machine needs to be fed, so here we are.
Col. Braddock (Norris) accompanies a helicopter crew on a mission towards the end of the war, but when the bird is shot out of the sky the survivors are taken prisoner and held for the next ten years in harsh conditions. Finally convinced that no rescue is imminent and forced into action by increasing cruelty, Braddock makes his move for freedom. Can he save himself and his men and escape their jungle captors? (Think carefully, and remember, it’s a prequel.)
Braddock and his men are captured attempting to rescue some other soldiers from a fierce firefight, and ten years later the Americans have divided into two factions. On one side is Nestor (Steven Williams), who’s become a lackey for Col. Yin (Soon-teck Oh) in his quest to get Braddock to sign a confession. Sign it, he says, and all the prisoners will be freed. On the other side is Braddock himself, steadfast in his refusal, and supported by the rest of the men.
It’s been a rough decade, but Col. Yin is a mischievous prankster who’s been turning up the cruelty. He stages fake executions where everyone but the prisoner know the gun to his head isn’t even loaded, he makes false promises just to see the Americans lose faith and he teases one of them with the possibility that two prostitutes will love him long time only to have them laugh at his package and walk away. Yin is a bad man.
Braddock sees inspiration when Yin burns an American alive and opportunity when the camp gets a visit from an Australian journalist looking for POWs. After ten years he’s finally grown tired of waiting and takes matters into his own hands.
The danger in telling a story viewers already know is that there’s very little room for suspense or wonder. It’s clear Braddock escapes, so the journey to that point needs to work extra hard to seem worthwhile. Sadly, MIA 2 never really works all that hard.
That’s not to say it’s all bad though. For one thing, and this is no small feat, the film features the single most convincing and affecting piece of dialogue Norris has ever delivered. As Yin roasts one of Braddock’s men Norris lets his otherwise constant tone waver as he spills out the words “son of a bitch.” It’s the first and only time Norris’ acting has stood out positively.
Other parts that work include a scene where Braddock has a burlap sack placed over his head with a rat inside, the arrival of Francois the French bastard who brings girls and opium and the presence of Prodessor Toru Tanaka as one of the VC thugs. The movie paces itself fairly well too by waiting an hour before unleashing the actual escape.
But on the whole the film is missing a reason to exist. There should be some kind of catharsis or excitement found in the rescue of American POWs, something the first film managed really well, but here it all feels by the numbers. There’s an earned emotional response when Braddock witnesses the cruel roast, but aside from that the only thing left to successfully garner viewers’ sympathies is a gratuitous chicken murder.
The believability factor is not something that should ever be considered in a Norris film, but you’d think ten years would take a toll on a person’s body strength. Braddock, a poorly fed prisoner for over a decade, suddenly has the strength to kick tons of ass, run all over camp placing convenient explosives and flash pearly whites when a plan comes together.
Once the action starts it’s of the competent variety, but there are no stand out moments.
And now, the only stats that matter:
- Chuck beats up – 6 bad guys!
- Chuck kills – 18 bad guys!
- Chuck gets shirtless at the – never mark!
As is the case with all five of MGM/Fox’s new Chuck Norris Blu-rays the image is good, and the extras are not. You only get a trailer.
Missiing In Action 2: The Beginning, like most prequels, tells a story that viewers already know. The trick is providing something new or making the expected exciting anyway. There’s definitely a lack of anything fresh here, but the film does offer up some entertainment between the gun fights and rat sack meals.
Buy Missing In Action 2: The Beginning on Blu-ray from Amazon