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Braddock: Missing in Action III

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Shout! Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Joseph Zito
Chuck Norris
Aki Aleong
Bottom Line: 

For much of the early late 1970s and into the early 1980s, Chuck Norris was America’s answer to Bruce Lee.  Roundhouse kicking his way through everything from rednecks in Breaker, Breaker to a secret society of ninjas in The Octagon, Chuck’s grindhouse-friendly films weren’t exactly box-office smashes, but they were cheaply-made and always turned a nice profit. As the actor’s box-office appeal grew, so, too, did his standing as a bona fide action hero, and this saw the actor headlining more conventional, (slightly) bigger-budgeted action vehicles in the mold of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. With less of a focus on martial arts and more impetus on all-around action, Norris became a gun-slinging, ass-kicking force of bearded brutality.

In 1984, Norris starred in what would become one of his biggest commercial and critical hits; the “serious” action flick, Missing in Action. Director Joseph Zito’s tale of former POW James Braddock’s return to Vietnam to rescue his still-imprisoned comrades proved to be a surprisingly dramatic and thoughtful film and not only cemented Norris’ status as an action hero, but also as served as the first volley in what would become a barrage of Vietnam War-themed action films (including Stallone’s similarly-themed Rambo 2).   While Missing in Action wrapped up quite nicely, the studio, of course, deemed a sequel necessary, and gave us Missing in Action II: The Beginning, which was set during the actual war and fleshed out Braddock’s time in the POW camp, as well as his heroic escape. While not quite as successful as the first film, Missing in Action II did well enough to justify (!?!) yet another trip back to the jungle in the absolutely bonkers Braddock: Missing in Action III.

Directed by Chuck’s younger brother, Aaron Norris, Missing in Action III opens with the evacuation of Saigon, where Braddock’s Vietnamese wife (who was never mentioned in the first two films) is left behind after losing her purse containing her travel documents. Later, charred remains are found in her apartment, and Braddock is left to assume his wife is dead. Flash forward twelve years, and Braddock is back stateside learns from a missionary that his wife is very much alive as is his 12 year old son. This, of course, compels Braddock to return to Vietnam to bring his family home, but he’s a man with many enemies, including the vicious General Quoc (Aki Aleong), who is hellbent on making sure the only way Braddock leaves Vietnam is in a casket.

Braddock: Missing in Action III is one of the strangest sequels I’ve come across in that it’s not really a sequel so much as it is reinvention of the character. Think of this Braddock as an alternate reality version of himself, with a completely different backstory. It’s as if they just said “screw it! If we send him back again it’ll just be stupid. Let’s start over!” and completely rebooted the series so that not only is he still an active Colonel in the Army, but he was never a POW in the first place. So, as a sequel to Missing in Action, Braddock is a curious and frustrating failure, but, as a standalone film (which it was probably meant to be), it’s actually not half-bad. There’s lots of satisfying and gory action, some really cheesy one-liners, and everything blows up real good.

Shout! Factory unleashes bearded hell on us all with a really impressive 1.85:1 transfer that is surprisingly crisp and detailed, and sports an impressively vibrant color palette even if the bulk of it is the green of the Philippines jungle. The included 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack packs as much punch as the other fist lurking behind Chuck’s beard, and offers many a gut-rumbling boom!

Sadly, bonus features are nil, although, strangely, if you buy Shout’s other recent Norris release, Invasion USA (directed by Missing in Action’s Zito), you’ll find some extra lovin’ in regards to this film.

While Braddock: Missing in Action III completely eschews the drama and “based on real headlines” tragedy that made the first two entries in the series so effective (especially the original), in favor of Commando-style cartoonish action and general buffoonery, the film is still entertaining as hell, and Shout Factory’s A/V presentation is top-notch stuff. If you’re a disciple of Chuck, this is a no-brainer. Grab it!




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