Missing in Action
Maslin weighed Norris in the balance and found him wanting, and so did Variety.
Col. Braddock returns to Vietnam and not only liberates some prisoners of war, he bursts in with them on a high-level conference in Saigon where government representatives are denying their existence.
What it all means is best explained by the New York Times. Braddock has completely overcome the guards, only to find that the caged prisoners are locals, who tell him the Americans are being transported elsewhere. He heads upriver in his pontoon boat, finds the convoy and attacks it. A bazooka knocks his boat out of the water, a slow-motion camera records its descent afire and the soldiers laughing at this turn of events, continuing as he emerges from the water with an M60.
And this is how Maslin describes the scene: “In one slow-motion sequence, he rises up out of a river, looking suitably ferocious in green fatigues and matching headband, and shoots holes in three Vietnamese soldiers who have made the mistake of laughing at him.”
The rest is all the same in her review of Missing in Action.
The main point of departure is Rod Serling’s “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”, directed by Ron Winston for The Twilight Zone. Rostov and his commandos land near Miami and strike purposefully to divide and conquer. Serling is directly evoked in the rocket attack on a suburban street. This is followed by the machine-gunning of a South Miami community center by two commandos disguised as police officers.
Hunter stops the bombing of a church taken as refuge out of Haskin’s The War of the Worlds. A crowd gathered outside a market is gunned down by phony National Guardsmen. Parents escort their children to the school bus armed with rifles and shotguns, a passing car attaches a bomb, Hunter gives it back. Against the twofold attack he is doubly armed.
He saves a photojournalist and earns her wrath thereby. He walks away from her tirade, while she flings a trash can lid at him, which soars harmlessly by. A little while later, he’s in his hotel room watching Earth vs. the Flying Saucers on television. One of them smashes into the Capitol building, and he placidly takes the gum out of his mouth with his left hand and sticks it on the painting behind him, never taking his eyes off the screen.
In the opening scene, a Coast Guard cutter murders boat people, its captain is Rostov. In the finale, Rostov’s army attacks military headquarters in Atlanta and is caught in a trap.