Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: With The Railway Man on the horizon, we highlight movies about prisoners of war.
Missing In Action (1984)
Chuck Norris punches, kicks, and shoots his way through Vietnam in search of his POW comrades in Joseph Zito’s jingoistic Missing In Action. But the most potent weapon in the star’s arsenal turns out to be his cold-blooded stare. For Norris’ Colonel James Braddock, nothing gets the job done more quickly than silently glaring at those who oppose him. At a press conference in which an evil Vietnamese leader accuses him of war crimes, Braddock simply glowers at eyewitnesses until they apologize for their lying deceit. That wordless technique comes in handy again when Braddock, trying to get an arms dealer to lower the price of a souped-up raft—adorned with shark teeth for maximum intimidation, and built with Kevlar to make it impervious to bullets—simply looks at the man until he gets what he wants. (In all fairness, he also slowly turns a machine-gun turret in the guy’s direction.) Braddock’s a man of few words, with Norris given scant dialogue in order to keep attention away from his wooden line readings and on his daunting force of personality.
Zito’s direction is full of languorous single-take pans through government offices and the Vietnamese jungle that often stymie momentum, but Norris’ walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick routine is in fine form. Whether suddenly undressing in front of a state department beauty (who’s both shocked and excited by his boldness), sneaking around Saigon’s nighttime streets with ninja-stealth cunning, or emerging from a river in slow motion to mow down a trio of cackling villains with his enormously phallic machine gun, Norris’ Braddock is a hero of rousing action-figure fantasy. Just as entertaining, however, is M. Emmet Walsh, who plays Braddock’s boat-driving sidekick, Jack Tucker. He’s a welcome source of comic relief—casually guzzling beer one minute, providing expert rifle-fire cover the next.
Availability: Missing In Action is available on Blu-ray and DVD (which can be obtained through Netflix), for digital purchase through Amazon, and to stream in its entirety for free on YouTube.