Saturday 19 May 2012

Movie Review: Missing In Action 2: The Beginning (1985)

One of Cannon Films' cheaper efforts in a catalogue full of cheap movies, Missing In Action 2: The Beginning stumbles around in the jungle for 100 minutes, looking for reasons to portray the Vietnamese as increasingly evil torturers and the American captives as innocent victims. When Chuck Norris as Colonel Braddock decides that he has had enough, he kills everyone, blows up the place and moves on to the next mindless action movie.

The prequel to Missing In Action is a single-set, single-idea movie: Braddock and a group of other American prisoners of war are held for years at a Vietnamese prison camp ruled by the vicious commander Colonel Yin (Soon-Tek Oh). In a battle of wills deep in the jungle, Yin wants Braddock to admit that he committed war crimes, and Braddock will endure all sorts of suffering and not do so.

Spotting a helicopter re-supply plane as the opportunity to escape, Braddock finally wages a one-man war on the camp, eliminating all guards, forcing a final confrontation with Yin, and bundling the few surviving POWs onto the chopper for a flight to freedom.

The only positive aspect of Missing In Action 2: The Beginning is that it demonstrates admirable restraint: the all-out fire-fights, explosions, and mass killings are only unleashed in the final 25 minutes. The core of the movie is a deliberate ratcheting up of hate towards Colonel Yin and his guards. Yin enjoys torture, and subjects Braddock and his fellow prisoners to everything from fake Russian roulette to hanging them upside down by the ankles (and as an added extra for Braddock, with a canvass bag tied around his head and occupied by a hungry rat).

The main question that remains unanswered, not that it really matters, is how Braddock remains so bulked-up and physically resilient after years of living on prison rations. The impossibilities of one man killing hundreds of guards, seemingly by being in several locations at once, and rigging the entire place with explosives without being noticed, are not questions that need to be raised for this category of film-making.

Filled with actors who never belonged on the large screen and directed by Lance Hool (previously an actor and usually a producer, but in this class of movies, you save money where you can), Missing In Action 2: The Beginning fully deserved to remain locked up in the jungle.

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