Missing in Action (1984)
The war's not over until the last man comes home.
Chuck Norris movie. Eighties action flick. What more can a description do to really tell you if your going to have a good time? The dude was like my first action-hero, so I'm predisposed to enjoy his movies regardless, but man has he had some pretty bad movies he's been in too. Let's figure out if this thing is something awesome or maybe just a walker.
Vietnam was not a good war - no wars are really, but this one particularly gets a good deal of play in movies. An American combat force is pulling out of the jungle, racing from incoming Vietnamese soldiers and mortar fire towards the helicopters that signal their freedom from danger, regardless of how momentary. Men are dropping left and right, and our hero is doing the best he can to get out of there with as many of his friends and soldiers-in-arms as possible. Two such soldiers get shot below him while he's in a second floor structure, and after he gets wounded as well he jumps down upon the soldiers tormentor with a grenade in each hand.
He wakes up in his room, news blaring on the television. It fills us in on how the Vietnamese government is denying the existence of any more prisoners of war as he turns the channel and grabs a beer from the fridge. As he's looking out the window and listening to Spiderman, he has another flashback to when he was being marched in chains with his fellow prisoners to a POW camp. Snapping back to reality and turning back to the news just in time to hear it talking about him, he finally gets fed up with it and kicks it off the stand and breaking it. Next up is a phone call to a senator to tell them that he's finally in - he'll go to Saigon for their meeting.
When he gets there, it seems the Vietnamese have him labeled as a war criminal, but after a stare down with the "witnesses," one of their reactions tells us a different story - one that they are not being truthful because they have no choice. Later that night, he goes out to find himself some truth, sneaking into the house of the governmental member telling the lies in the first place and threatens the location of a POW camp out of him at knife point. Unable to prove it was him who did it, the Vietnamese kick our hero out of Vietnam the next morning after finding the official dead. He has other plans though, and goes to meet up with an old friend who happens to have a boat - a boat that can get him back into Vietnam and to that POW camp. One way or the other, he's going to bring those men home.
It's not unusual to see these Vietnam-inspired action movies around the time this came out (Platoon and Rambo: First blood part 2). It might not be the best of the groupings, but it carries that same fundamental thought in it's plot - if our men our out there, we need to bring them home. It's not as much a commentary on the war itself as it is a simple straight-forward example of focused Hoo-rah towards rescuing your own. That being said, it does have a few different things going on in the screen space to change it up every now and then - such as stealth parts with plenty of sneaking and build up, the slight political aspect, and of course the action and fights.
Costume work feels appropriate, with the most goofy selection being the hero's friend who wears a Hawaiian-print shirt out on the rescue mission, as if it somehow doesn't stand out like a sore thumb against the jungle and water backdrop. Actions scenes come in with plenty of explosions and guns, and there's a few moments where I can't help but wonder if one of the stuntmen/extras ended up with an injury (the opening river-crossing has a guy smack dab in the middle of a giant water-geyser mortar hit effect). Even if what's being done isn't necessarily feasible in a realistic sense - as movies rarely are - it's still fun to watch, down to the smoke billowing off of machine guns as they fire after being submerged. Heck, there's even a few slow motion effects added in to a few scenes later on.
Actors do a decent enough job here, with Norris having some pretty good charisma on screen. There isn't as much kung fu action going on in this as in some of his other movies, which helps it feel a lot more in-character with what the movie is trying to present him as. Audio balance is mostly fine - it fairs better through my speakers than the DVD video did getting stretched across my projector screen - although there are a few moments where some lines sound either more loud or crisp than ones around them. Background audio does it's job in the places it shows up, with a particular interesting moment where the hero is sneaking around the government officials house and it takes on this sinister, almost slasher-movie vibe complete with piano keys and "chchch" sound.
Most people who tune in to watch an 80's style action movie do it for a particular reason. It's usually not severe realism, or incredibly acting, and rarely even super deep and elaborate plots. They tune in to these things to have fun, maybe even fetch a little nostalgia, and in my case I achieve both of those re-watching this. It's a nice mix of things exploding and a reason for them to be exploding, and better than that it doesn't over stay it's welcome like some movies do. Probably worth a viewing if you meet all the age requirements or like those old action flicks.