It's no secret that Hollywood doesn't make many Westerns anymore. Why bother, especially when film makers can crank out bloody prisoner-of-war movies that amount to the same thing. The latest entry in the bring-'em-back-alive sweepstakes, "P.O.W.: The Escape" (citywide), is little more than a Grade C Western, with souped-up Jeeps instead of horses, heroic GIs serving as the cavalry, naughty North Vietnamese standing in for the Indians and lush jungle foliage replacing the sagebrush.
If you've seen such popular revenge sagas as "Rambo" or "Missing in Action," it's easy to have a feeling of deja vu about the whole affair. Set in the waning days of the Vietnam War, the film features the indestructible Col. James Cooper (David Carradine) as a valiant Army officer who sneaks in behind enemy lines to rescue a hardy band of POWs. It's easy to imagine where director Gideon Amir (who also has a story credit) got the idea for the picture. After all, he served as a second-unit director on "Missing in Action."
But give Amir and his screenwriting team credit--they do dream up a few comically far-fetched new wrinkles that'll have scholars scurrying for the history books. Instead of having the GIs hack through the jungle alone, they're escorted by a North Vietnamese prison camp commander who's fleeing the country so he can join his family in Miami Beach. (He's in such a rush he even leaves his pictures of Lenin behind.) Naturally, the convoy runs into trouble, especially when an alert border guard notes that Hanoi is in the other direction.