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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Braddock: Missing in Action III' Is a By-the-Numbers Action Film

January 22, 1988|LEONARD KLADY

In the world of Rambo clones, the outre comic book adventures of James Braddock (Chuck Norris) in the "Missing in Action" series boost the Stallone films into the realm of legitimate literature by comparison. Apart from better than competent production values and pyrotechnics, the Norris gung-ho forays are cheap imitations of more serious explorations on the scars of war.

The Braddock character was introduced in movies as a vet frustrated in his attempts to get MIA buddies back home through official channels. So, he did what a one-man army's gotta do. Next we saw a prequel of Braddock's POW days. Now, in "Braddock: Missing in Action III" (citywide) he discovers that his wife did not die during the fall of Saigon in 1975 but lives in a rural Vietnamese hovel with the son he never knew existed.

If one believes that the determination of one individual can overcome all obstacles, the story is a living document. Braddock easily glides into Thailand, eludes his CIA stalkers and arranges to have a state-of-the-art arsenal at his disposal for his hop into Vietnam.

Simply following the river down four villages, turning left and stopping at the sixth hut on the right, he finds his family. But all is not well. Though his wife greets him with open arms, the boy will need proof of a father's love to understand his abandonment.

The screenplay by Norris and James Bruner relies heavily on sentimentality and stoops to the most alarming racial stereotypes to gain emotional punch. The worst example is the character of General Quoc (Aki Aleong), a laughing, sadistic Asian martinet rarely seen in American movies since World War II. Quoc bullies the defenseless, proving women and children are the true victims of war movies.

"Braddock: Missing in Action III" (MPAA-rated: R for violence, torture and language) is a by-the-numbers filmed atrocity. One can just imagine a game caller saying: "Under the "I," 17 Amerasian children tortured; under the "N," 49 Vietnamese soldiers blown to kingdom come." It all adds up to the movie game of J-I-N-G-O, which ought to be a felony.

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