Chuck Norris. Missing in Action. Ranked.
The Missing in Action movies introduced the world to arguably Chuck Norris’s 2nd most famous character (After Walker, Texas Ranger of course), Vietnam veteran and ex-POW Col. James Braddock. This series helped establish Chuck Norris as not only one of the premier action heroes of the 80s, but the legendary mythical badass that we all know and love. Now, here are my rankings of the Missing in Action trilogy! Beginning with…
3) Missing in Action (1984)
Vietnam Veteran and Ex-POW Col. James Braddock launches a mission deep into the jungles of Vietnam to find the POW camp that he escaped from and free the Americans still held captive there.
Ohh, I know I’m gonna hear it for this one. Yes. I ranked part 1 last. No, this is not a joke. It’s nothing personal. I love part 1. I just prefer the other 2 over it. I mean, Joseph Zito (The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) steers the proceedings pretty good for his first time making an action movie. Not as good as his next action movies Invasion USA and Red Scorpion (where he finally learns how to shoot explosions just right), but he does ok here.
And that right there is really why I ranked this last. The action is serviceable, effective, but never reaches a level of awesome that would’ve drove this home for me. Like it’s good, but I feel if somebody else were directing it could’ve been great. Now, I’m not saying Zito was a bad choice. He did fine. But maybe if they had a director more familiar with action, instead of a director known for horror who had just come off a horror film, the sequences would’ve had a little more oomph to them.
In his defense, others have made the transition from Horror to Action successfully. Like Renny Harlin, Dwight Little, as well as all time great action director John McTiernan. But here? It was fine. And that’s it. But like I said, Zito would do much better next year with Invasion USA. I guess he just needed a bit more time to adjust. It is what it is.
2) Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)
In this prequel to the first Missing in Action, set in the early 1980s, it shows the capture of Colonel Braddock during the Vietnam war in the 1970s, and his captivity with other American POWs in a brutal prison camp, and his plans to escape.
I actually go back and forth on which one I like more, this one or part 3. I’ll let you know why I chose the next one over this in a second. This one and part 1 have a peculiar background. You see, this one, centered around Braddock’s time as a POW, was made first, with the first MIA intended to be its sequel. But when executives realized that part 1 was the better movie of the 2, they decided to switch the releases around so that MIA 1 would become the first one, and this would instead become “The Prequel”.
Got it? Good. Now onto the movie. I actually find this one more satisfying than the “first one”. The drama concerning Braddock and his fellow POWs was more compelling than the previous entry, and made for a more gripping conclusion when they get their revenge on their captors. Especially Braddock’s final confrontation with Col. Yin, played by the late, great Soon Tek-Oh.
He’s such an effective scumbag, and his treatment of the POWs is so horrible, you can’t help but feel a sense of enjoyment when he finally gets his comeuppance. All in all, an effective action/war drama that deserves a bit more respect.
1) Braddock: Missing in Action 3 (1988)
Braddock mounts a one-man assault to free his wife and son who are still being held in a Vietnam prison camp
Ahhh, MIA 3. Now, I know you guys are wondering how I could choose this one over the other 2, especially part 1. Thinking it has to be some complex reason or the story was more compelling. Honestly, the story of Braddock going back into Vietnam to rescue his Vietnamese wife and son (For those wondering, this entry exists in an alternate universe where Braddock never became a POW) and ends up rescuing an entire group of abandoned Ameriasian children makes for a truly compelling story. But that’s not the main reason. “So… what is it?” Well, wonder no further, because here’s the reason: the action is better.
That’s right. In my opinion, this one has the best directed action sequences out of the entire trilogy. Which is amazing considering that it was directed by first timer Aaron Norris (Chuck’s little brother). Aaron had been a stunt coordinator and directed second unit on some of Chuck’s other movies, so when original director Joseph Zito backed out, Aaron was given the job. And by the look of it, you would never tell this was his first time at all. The action. The stunts. And the explosions.
Truth be told, I feel no director who worked for Cannon Films shot explosions better than Aaron Norris. It feels like these explosions were designed just for me! Those beautiful gasoline fueled orange wave explosions are my favorite type of explosions. And this movie is riddled with them! So so beautiful! I love it! I wish Aaron had made more movies for Cannon, especially when they were in their heyday.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Those are my rankings of the Missing in Action movies. A series of movies I hold near and dear to my heart. An everlasting testament to the awesomeness that is Chuck Norris. But before I go, let me leave you with this fact: If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can’t see Chuck Norris, you may only be seconds away from death.
What’s your ranking of the Chuck Norris Mission in Action movies? Let us know in the comments!