One good thing deserves another... and another. After two runs to Vietnam with Chuch Norris, we get the explosive conclusion with Braddock: Missing in Action III. Proving you can squeeze all of the creative juice out of a simple concept, this one-too-many sequel hits on a sensitive subject but is too content with trivial action theatrics to say or do anything meaningful. Kino Lorber Studio Classics delivers a Blu-ray sourced from a new 2K restoration, solid audio, and a fun new audio commentary. Recommended
After escaping from a POW camp and successfully sneaking back into Vietnam to rescue his fellow soldiers, James Braddock (Chuck Norris) lives like a ghost without purpose. But then the kindly reverend Polanski (Yehuda Efroni) appears out of nowhere to inform Braddock that the wife he thought had died during the fall of Saigon was actually alive - and he also has a son! Now with everything to live for, Braddock will once again arm up, grab a rocket boat, and return to ‘Nam to save his family.
While you can have too much of a good thing, you can also have too much of a bland thing. After Missing in Action 2: The Beginning all but put a nail in the creative coffin of this franchise, producer cousins Golan and Globus got their Cannon machine to punch out one more action flick for their signature star Chuck Norris. After Missing in Action director Joseph Zito joined the production and quickly left, it should have been a sign to stop while they were ahead. Instead, Chuck’s little brother Aaron Norris would step into the director’s chair for the first time to squeeze out one more sequel on the cheap. In addition to budget issues and a thin constantly changing script, the film was also met with tragedy when a helicopter crashed killing multiple crew members. And to add insult to tragedy, the film was the most expensive of the three and earned the least amount at the box office.
For a franchise that basically aimed to out-Rambo Rambo, this third Missing in Action film didn’t have the good sense to try and do something new for its one-man army. While the theme of POWs was replaced with the Amerasian children of American G.I.’s, the idea of Chuck Norris once again jumping back into Vietnam was one trip too many for the franchise to bare. At least Rambo had the sense to go to a new war and help mujahideen fighters knock the Russians out of Afghanistan. The plight of Amerasian children was certainly timely and poignant, but this movie doesn’t have anything genuine to say or do beyond setting up Chuck Norris to stand out in the open with a huge-ass machine gun.
Much like every other entry in the franchise and most of Cannon’s action movie output, Braddock: Missing In Action III is stupid but very fun stupid. This screenplay was never going to win any awards and you can practically feel Aaron Norris figuring out his technique and style as a director with every shot. Sometimes it’s with inspired camera staging with dramatic lighting and mood, like the opening prologue, the next take is about as flat and boring as a shot can get. Once again any continuity of the franchise is thrown out since Braddock would have been captured long before the fall of Saigon, but who cares right? It’s Chuck Norris - let's watch him kick and punch guys and blow up a would-be child rapist with a grenade launcher to the gut.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Braddock: Missing in Action III returns to the jungles of Blu-ray for the third time to rescue Cannon Group fans’ home video collections with a new disc from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with slipcover. Yes, that artwork is actually an image from the first Missing in Action film but it was also used as the teaser poster before this film's release and also often appeared on video box art through the years. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
While its older sibling films picked up new 4K restoration sourced transfers, Braddock: Missing in Action III makes due with an impressive new 2K restoration. Previously released in 2016 from Shout Factory, this new disc shows immediate improvements in detail clarity and film grain. Facial features, costumes, and production details are much cleaner and clearer allowing you to fully appreciate Norris’ famously bearded maw. Colors also look stronger and healthier with strong primaries and natural skin tones. Elements are also in much better shape without all of the notable speckling and dirt. The image also isn’t saddled with the dodgy edge enhancement of the 2016 disc. Black levels are healthier without crush issues for a stronger feel for depth and dimension to the image.
For this release, we once again pick up an effective and engaging DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track that doesn’t sound all that different from the 2016 disc. Dialog - such as there is - is clean and clear throughout without issue. Scoring is on point and helps fill out the soundscape without overpowering the mix. Sound effects can be a bit thick with canned gunfire and explosions aplenty bursting throughout any given scene. The fall of Saigon sequences are pretty effective and well staged with plenty of activity. Quieter conversation scenes can sound a bit hollow. Overall it’s a solid mix.
Again, this bonus features package doesn’t exactly light the world on fire, but a new audio commentary track is better than nothing at all! Film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema offer up a spirited conversation about this film. They know full well this is a goofy flick but they also have a lot of love and appreciation.
Now that legacy sequels are all the rage, maybe it’s time for Chuck Norris to dust off the beard and fatigues for a Missing in Action IV! Maybe they’d be able to explain just what the hell Keith David was doing at the beginning of this film only never to appear again? All good franchises must end and Braddock: Missing in Action III more than adequately ended this trilogy. The driving idea behind it may have been well-meaning, but the film does little with it beyond the setup of one ridiculous action sequence after another. Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives us another Blu-ray release of this Cannon Group classic with an impressive new video transfer, solid audio, and a new very entertaining audio commentary to punch up the bonus features. Needless to say, if you love the works of Golan/Globus you need Braddock: Missing in Action III in your collection. Recommended.