Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Missing in Action Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
American servicemen are still being held captive in Vietnam - and it's up to one man to bring them home in this blistering, fast-paced action/adventure starring martial arts superstar Chuck Norris.  Following a daring escape from a Vietnamese POW camp, Special Forces Colonel James Braddock (Norris) is on a mission to locate and save remaining MIAs.  Aided by a beautiful State Department official (Lenore Kasdorf) and a former Army buddy (M. Emmet Walsh), Braddock amasses top secret information and state-of-the-art weaponry.  Now this one-man army is prepared to blast his way into Vietnam... but will he be able to blast his way back out.

Chuck Norris Fact: Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people...then it exploded.

Film (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Chuck Norris stars as Colonel James Braddock, an American military officer who after being captured in Vietnam spent seven years in a North Vietnamese POW camp before escaping.  The movie starts ten years after his escape with him joining a government investigation team that travels to Ho Chi Minch City to look into reports that there may still be Americans POWs still being held.  Braddock isn't thrilled to be there and is hostile to the Vietnamese delegation headed by General Trau (James Hong) that meets with them.  

Braddock is convinced that Trau is hiding something based on his past experience with the man and he convinces the American diplomatic envoy Ann Fitzgerald (Lenore Kasdorf) to assist his efforts to discover the truth. That night, Braddock sneaks out of his room and infiltrates the Vietnamese living quarters to break into Trou's room to find out the truth.  He learns that there are indeed American POWs still hidden away and Braddock is determined to rescue them.  

He travels to Thailand to find his old Army buddy named Turk (M. Emmet Walsh) who has since become a local black market figure.  Braddock talks him into joining his mission and thanks to Turk's underworld connections, they manage to acquire stealthy raft and some hardcore weaponry.  In the meantime, they are being tracked by the man who tortured Braddock in the POW camp years ago.  As Braddock and Turk make their way deep into the jungle to rescue the men left behind, the Vietnamese government stages a press conference stating that there are no POWs left, which is something that Braddock is determined to disprove.

The first Missing in Action movie skips over Braddock's capture and his own time in the POW camp with only flashbacks showing us a glimpse into what happened there.  If you want to learn more about that time period of his life you will need to watch the sequel movie which details his capture and imprisonment and in my opinion is the better of the two movies.  This first movie has a weak plot and a script that was "inspired" by a story treatment that James Cameron written for Rambo: First Blood Part II.  Because they basically ripped off the idea for the Rambo sequel, they rushed to get this one made as fast as possible so they would be the first one to hit the theaters.  The sequel was actually filmed at the same time as the first movie and was supposed to be the first one released, but the producers decided to swap the order to avoid copyright lawsuits.  This is a fairly low budget film but it does features some pretty cool Chuck Norris stunts that show him actually doing stuff which always helps these kinds of movies.  I'd recommend watching Rambo: First Blood Part II instead of this one or at least Missing in Action II.

Video (3 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is decent but the the image quality often reflects the low budget nature of the -film.  These shortcomings are even more evident during the night-time scenes that look overly dark and murky and a lot of digital noise.  There's also a lot of grain present that doesn't look like any extra digital noise reduction was applied.  The day-time jungle scenes fare a lot better onscreen as they contain more detail and a  lot less noise to distract from the presentation.  The black levels aren't very dark or solid and overall this transfer is not much better than the kind of quality you would find on a DVD.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars)

Missing in Action's DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0 track does the job but it's also something of a letdown.  While the dialogue is understandable but the score and sound effects don't come across as well as sound very dated.  It would have been nice if this had been cleaned up and restored to to a full DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.

Extras (1 out of 5 stars)

The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer which will bring down the final score.

Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I don't think Missing in Action is one of Chuck Norris' better films thanks to the script and the feeling that it was rushed.  I also don't like it when Norris doesn't get to use his martial arts talents because he's too busy shooting people.  It's a shame because he was one of the best but it seemed during the eighties that he was either told to emulate Stallone and Schwarzenegger or did it on his own but it's a shame nonetheless. This Blu-ray could have looked and sounded a lot better than it does, but it's still better overall than a DVD.  It's too bad that there weren't more special features included for fans of the movie.  If you are a fan of Norris it's hard to argue against getting this, especially at the low price it's being sold at.

Order your copy today!

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