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Braddock: Missing in Action III
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Enjoyable Sequel That Delivers the Goods"
4 stars

Didn't make much of an impression at the time, but it's developed a pretty loyal following.

In the admittedly enjoyable Braddock: Missing in Action III Chuck Norris delivers a fine self-effacing performance that manages to carry the movie over its considerable hurdles. Mind you, I wasn't exactly a fan of either the abysmal original or its not-bad prequel, but this time around the proceedings are more competently handled, better scripted so when you walk out of the theater you can actually say you've seen something reasonably solid. For the uninitiated, Norris's Vietnam war hero James Braddock was called upon by D.C. bigwigs to fly over to the capital of Hanoi and make peace with his former enemies and attest that there were no American POWs languishing in squalor prisons as slave labor as punishment over the U S.'s $4.5 billion in war reparations they reneged on. Braddock nevertheless managed to locate and rescue the POWs while killing off the one-dimensional baddies in true jingoistic form; the prequel found Braddock during his own POW days plotting to escape his merciless captors, otherwise the original couldn't have possibly taken place. The untalented Joseph Zito was responsible for the first film, and it was abysmally made - incompetently staged and edited, it had all the acute timing of a TV game show. The prequel, orchestrated by Lance Hool, a screenwriter making his directorial debut, was considerably better - ably engineered and competently photographed, it at least had semblances of a genuine motion picture despite its contextual weaknesses. And Chuck Norris' considerable screen presence made all the difference. Vivid without ever indulging in cheap two-fisted machismo, he cut an appealing Everyman portrait any American could get behind - his moral righteousness was palpable. No, the role didn't afford him the nuance his career-best Code of Silence did, but he gamely succeeded in getting across a creditable characterization in the muck of it all. And in Braddock, the third and last in the series, Norris is even better, and so much so that his excellent performance alone makes the movie recommendable. In the knockout opening sequence set during the tumultuous fall of Hanoi in 1973, which is far better staged than the one in Michael Cimino's odious The Deer Hunter, Braddock gets off a helicopter and progresses to his downtown apartment to claim his Vietnamese wife for extradition; but a massive rocket explosion levels the place right when he gets there and he assumes the corpse being taken out is his wife (it isn't), and he returns to base and is choppered out to the States. We then forward fifteen years later to Washington D.C. where a priest approaches Braddock in a bar where he relays the surprising news that his wife is indeed alive; Braddock doesn't initially believe it, but after he's then intimidated by CIA agents and confronted by their boss he knows there's credibility to it ("Big mistake, Little John. I didn't believe it until now"). The rest of the movie deals with Braddock trying to rescue not only his wife from Vietnam but his teenage son he never knew has existed all this time.

Contextually, Braddock: Missing in Action III is pretty much a lost cause because it's too dedicated to serving up formulaic bits to appease mere popcorn-munchers - it in no shape or form aspires to be anything even remotely arresting. But given all its built-in limitations it's pretty damn good for what it is. The director this time around is Aaron Norris, the star's brother, and proves himself an adept technician as far as these things go.There's an undeniable professionalism at work here that was absent in the previous entries - here, you're led through the proceedings with something resembling above-average confidence throughout. Without giving too much away, Braddock finds himself in the predicament of not only extracting his son but a group of other Amerasian children herded by that priest in an orphanage. I have to admit I found Braddock's central enemy, a Vietnamese colonel, enjoyably over-the-top in his bombastic yelling "Braaaaaddoooock!!!" whenever he's forever being thwarted by his opponent; and whenever the movie threatens to stall out due to the near-nonexistent plotting the script serves up yet again another action-filled bit that gets us past the dead spots. Braddock comes off as a genuine three-dimensional human being, and we're with his stalwart self every single stop of the way. Norris is that rarity in that he's a martial-arts star with genuine human accessibility as he also demonstrated earlier in the year in the semi-admirable The Hero and the Terror it's quite the welcome surprise to see both a star actor in his prime and his director brother having the technical prowess to considerably liven up an unambitious genre assignment such as this (the canny use of slow-mo when the occasion calls for it is always justified) without ever putting on airs that they're artistically above it - they unapologetically serve the material with something of genuine affection, so the human element is constantly shining through. Braddock's innate sense of decency is palpable, and Norris succeeds in etching just as full-bodied a vivid heroic portrait as Sylvester Stallone did in the fine Rambo: First Blood Part II. Overall, Braddock: Missing in Action III is in no way shape or form a classic, and only a fool would even remotely purport it to be, but it gets the job done admirably enough and emerges amid all the gunfire and explosions as a worthy viewing. And that's more than enough to pass muster in this discriminating viewer's eyes.

The Blu-Ray release boasts a wonderful transfer that would admittedly have benefitted with some special features.

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originally posted: 09/08/20 09:36:24
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  22-Jan-1988 (R)



Directed by
  Aaron Norris

Written by
  James Bruner
  Chuck Norris

  Chuck Norris
  Aki Aleong
  Roland Farrah III
  Miki Kim
  Yehada Efruni

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