Missing in Action (1984)
By: Devon B. on April 12, 2013 | Comments
MGM (USA) | Region Free | 1.85:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 1.0 | 101 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Missing in Action BD Cover Art
Credits
Director: Joseph Zito
Starring: Chuck Norris, M. Emmet Walsh, James Hong, David Tress
Screenplay: James Bruner
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
The first two Missing in Action movies have iconic artwork, the kind that I still vividly remember from the video stores of my youth, but for some reason the original art has been scrapped for this new cover. It's not as bad as The Delta Force's or Lone Wolf McQuade's, but it's still a step down, but thankfully that's where the tampering stops, and this is otherwise a great release faithful to Missing in Action's original presentation.

Norris plays a Vietnam vet, plagued by memories of the war and troubled by the fact that there are still soldiers being held prisoner after the war. He has been speaking out about the existence of M.I.A. troops, and reluctantly returns to Nam for a meeting about the M.I.A.s. He meets up with everyone's favourite adopted panda's father James Hong, then quickly gets into trouble. It takes more than an hour to get to the focal point of the movie, but most viewers will probably guess that Norris is going to be off on a rescue mission at some point, and eventually he does head off in a whirlwind of conservative propaganda as he tries to bring the boys home.

The most obvious comparison for Missing in Action is Rambo: First Blood Part II. It's not a rip off, because it predates Rambo, but it still certainly owes a debt to First Blood. Missing in Action has awkward flashbacks that try to ape those from First Blood and Norris even sports a Rambo knife in one scene. Since First Blood's sequel seems to have drawn at least a little inspiration from Missing in Action, I guess the two series are even on the creativity front, and in the end Missing in Action feels like a very different film from Rambo: First Blood Part II. For one thing, Sylvester Stallone is pretty smooth shaven in his vehicle, but Norris is hairy as all fuck in his, so that's a pretty big difference right there.

Another difference is that Missing in Action's title appears to have two meanings. The first is the obvious reference to the M.I.A.s, but the second is a subtle attempt to warn the viewer that the film will not be wall to wall excitement. I didn't find it dull like some of Norris' other movies, but when the filmmakers decide to pad out a Chuck Norris movie with clips from a Spider-Man cartoon, something's not quite right. Unless maybe that cartoon is foreshadowing the scene where Norris scales a wall, a stunt he performs at least part of himself. He doesn't do whatever else a spider can, so maybe the idea it was foreshadowing is a stretch. Those hoping to see Norris display his martial arts will be disappointed because the hoo-ha is not very prominent this time, but those that like to see Norris shoot a lot of things, without needing to aim, should ultimately get their fill before the credits roll.

I use to take Norris seriously, Karate Kommandos and all that, but really Norris was an underappreciated comic genius who helped paved the way for the greatest comedy legend the action genre ever spawned: Steven Seagal. Just like Stevie, Norris has things so overblown that they're hilarious, with Norris' acting as subtle as ever. This bizarre extremism seeps into other areas of the film as well, with very amusing results. My favourite instance of this is when some guys try to assassinate Norris with a knife, but when that fails they instantly go on to the next step up, a grenade launcher. Not a sword. Not an ordinary gun. It's like they go, "Well, the guy with the little knife failed, so clearly the only thing that could stop this guy is a grenade." Maybe they didn't have time to try anything in between, but if so that wasn't made clear enough.

The sheer stupidity on display is sure delight viewers that like their Chuckie Cheese, and there is enough wartime action in the end that the movie should also please fans of combat movies. I would've preferred more fisticuffs, but the steady stream of ridiculousness helped distract me from its absence.
The Disc
Missing in Action looks surprisingly good, especially considering it's an exclusive to one chain store. There's a little macroblocking, some edge enhancement and a few spots. Grain gets heavy in a few places, but there is surprisingly little crush given how many darker scenes there are. At times the movie looks amazing, and that's before taking into account the film's age and budget, and most of the time it looks really good for what it is.

They're not listed on the slick, but there are plenty of dubs available, another odd thing given the disc's exclusivity. There're English, French, German, Italian and Spanish 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. Some of the sounds seemed boosted or muted in the various dubs, but the English track consistently sounded the brightest and most dynamic. The track is clear, to the point background noises can stick out, and this is a good showcase of the movie's original audio mix.

Extras are limited to just the trailer!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Five Norris titles have been given the HD treatment by MGM, with three of them Walmart exclusives. I don't just dislike Walmart, I think it's helped contribute to the nigh-total downfall of the US economy, and On principle I've never shopped there. The bastards found a way to make me succumb however– exclusive Chuck Norris Blu-rays!

If I took Missing in Action seriously the right wing tone would drive me mental, but as a comedy it just serves as one more thing to laugh at. It's about as realistic and honest as Reefer Madness, but with more grenades. This Blu-ray is another good Norris release from MGM, so if fans can stomach the idea of supporting Walmart it is worth picking up.

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