Missing in Action III

As so often is the case, a thoroughly admirable film has received a relatively poor reception for no reason at all. The craven fact appears to be that people prefer computerized stuffed animals to cinema, and would rather have a Furby or a Funzo than a Fuller. Nerds in particular have little truck with Chuck, one can’t be sure why, although one can point out the things they’ve missed in this film, every single blessed little one of them.

The particular point of elegance achieved by Aaron Norris is at the end of the car chase, where one police car broadsides another and there is no explosion, only a policeman’s hat knocked out a window.

The main basis is Henry King’s Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, with some of Leo McCarey’s Satan Never Sleeps for good measure. There’s a little quote from The Third Man, and the final scene suggests Kazan’s Man on a Tightrope, with a resolution elaborated from the conclusion of The Green Berets (note the signature of this, a Special Forces detachment at the bridge).

The salient characteristic of the director’s style is the one-second POV insert or action close-up, which probably derives from the Siegel-Eastwood school, but is deployed throughout to telling effect.

Chuck Norris is, and all you shabby æsthetes are inane, superb in this, a very accomplished actor who also exhibits in an excruciating torture scene, and to the utter consternation of the critics, what it means to have one-pointed concentration (this scene features a shotgun/chair mechanism that strangely recalls the videotaped murder in Frankenheimer’s 52 Pick-Up).

The opening sequence of the fall of Saigon, and the subsequent depiction of one who stayed behind, strongly resemble eyewitness accounts.

The technique is shown in the car chase, in the parachute drop (after a hairy bit of stunt flying a few feet off the water in a DC-3, finally banking right and up) where a cameraman jumps out of the plane for views that are too brief to get you used to the idea, and in the jet-powered pontoon boat (which won’t start at first) skimming away from two Vietnamese craft. In each case, a moment of well-filmed direct action is worth a hundred set pieces.

Yehuda Efroni plays the priest who sees Braddock at the orphanage window one night, like the jackass foretold at the end of One-Eyed Jacks (itself founded on the jackass in Los Olvidados). Miki Kim as Mrs. Braddock and Aki Aleong as Gen. Quoc are eloquent and masterful, respectively, and Roland Harrah III as Braddock’s son takes direction ably.

One can easily count five or six leading action directors with less skill than Aaron Norris, who has a small budget and doesn’t make a big production out of it. His advantage is in the necessity of finding cinematic answers to cinematic problems.


Platoon Leader

Cannon’s honesty is in the shiny chrome letters of the onscreen title replacing Nam, so that a marketing gloss on Stone is derided at the outset.

Of the two, Norris has the better technique. A pan on the platoon leader entering his new firebase reverses itself and tilts down as his sergeant jumps out of an observation tower to catch up with him, a small thing adroitly filmed.

This skill serves him handily at a tearful meeting in the hospital when the wounded sergeant gives a soldier’s hug to the visiting lieutenant, whose stock of the situation is barely registered as taciturn as Ford.


The Colombian Connection
Delta Force 2

The screenplay and direction give focus to a persistent inability of the United States Government to eliminate a South American drug lord who lives in feudal splendor harvesting his crop and cropping his harvesters. Even Delta Force nearly comes a cropper, and here the Washington Post reviewer steps in naturally to B-rate the pic, oblivious of its content moments after seeing it.

It begins with a carnival bust that goes awry, than an awesome snatch gets the fellow into court, where a $10,000,000 fine is merely cursory. A froward Yank bops the released defendant on the jaw, and suffers the fate of Macduff (it’s a very Shakespearean villain, this villain is).

The Force goes in by way of a rocket attack on the hilltop manse with swimming pool. As the drug lord has a military alliance, there is a pursuit in his limousine with him handcuffed in the back seat and a general overhead in a helicopter (cf. Braddock: Missing in Action III).

The conclusion has him unhoist with his own petard.


The Hitman

Seattle, which at night is filmed amid emanations of steam, is dominated by an Italian crime family. Across Puget Sound in Vancouver is a French gang, and there is a nebulous Iranian outfit in the works.

Chuck Norris and Michael Parks bust a drug shipment, but Parks shoots Norris and joins the mob. Norris goes undercover, and the complex interplay among the warring factions might be described as a double Yojimbo.

This is fascinatingly complicated, and every bit as amusing as it sounds. These Canadian border wars in their jewel-like settings make a wonderfully menacing, mounting and dissipating conundrum, and they’re played to the hilt by Al Waxman et al.

Aaron Norris’s direction gets it all. The French boss takes a walk in the Northern woods, is ambushed, runs for his life and turns back to see in a POV his two bodyguards shredded by masked gunmen.

And in the midst of it all, Chuck Norris befriends a young fellow beset by a bully, gives him lessons, watches him fight successfully, then goes across the street and knocks the bully’s bullying father down flat.

There is a comprehensive view of the physical surroundings, subtle differentiations among the gangsters, some very funny setups and deliveries, and above all, the construction with its irresistible mirrors.

For anyone with an interest in these matters, The Washington Post sent its Zoilus to write a review, and the result is a masterpiece of the wretched breed.



The 97-pound weakling at the New York Times did not see the point, and there was Danica McKellar looking as always like a casting call for The World of Henry Orient.

One must admit that Sidekicks is subtle, but it’s obviously well-filmed, and what does everyone have against Joe Piscopo? The Washington Post, for once, did not send a Rex Reed celebrity impersonator, and that alone is a signal event or else the exception that proves the rule.

The 97-pound weakling at the Chicago Sun-Times, who is breeding a small flock of disciples to spot the superfices of the art, also did not see the point.