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Missing in Action 2: The Beginning/Braddock: Missing in Action III

Though he is still alive and kicking, Chuck Norris probably will always be best remembered as an '80s icon. A working class hero, Norris toiled in low-budget karate/action films that often aped the success of A-list films by the likes of Sylvester Stallone. And though such might not make him a legend, what cemented his icon status was the sheer volume of work he churned out under the unwatchful eyes of Cannon Films. It was the Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus production company that released some of the ripest schlock of that era (including The Masters of the Universe and the Sly Stallone ode to arm-wrestling truckers Over the Top). And Golan/Globus efforts Missing in Action 2: The Beginning and Braddock: Missing in Action III are of the same ilk. Latching on to the belief that American POW's were still in Vietnam (but more importantly, latching on to the box office success of Rambo: First Blood Part 2), Lance Hool's Missing in Action 2 (1985) concerns Colonel James Braddock's (Norris) initial stay in a POW camp, which was backstory to the first film. Up against a vicious commanding officer in Colonel Yit (Soon-Tek Oh), and asked to be a turncoat by fellow American Captain Nester (Steven Williams), Braddock reenacts the first half of Bridge on the River Kwai as he and his squad are subjected to all sorts of torture, until Braddock can't take it no more and fights back. Later, in director Aaron Norris's (yes, the brother of Chuck) Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988) Braddock has to go back in to Vietnam one last time (or at least until someone makes Missing in Action IV) to find the wife he thought was dead and the kid he didn't know he had. Not particularly creative nor bad, the Missing in Action films follow the same basic formula: Set up bad guys, have them torture Norris, then let Norris kill them — preferably in interesting ways. And in being just that, they show a proficient mediocrity that almost absolves them from criticism — in the same way one can't really criticize a Big Mac — they're beneath contempt and deliver exactly what they promise. MGM's double feature DVD presents both films in full-frame (1.33:1) transfers only. Oh well. Audio for The Beginning is in Dolby 2.0 stereo, while Braddock is in Dolby 2.0 surround. Trailers, keep-case.

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