This week, Fox/MGM released three Chuck Norris/Cannon classics on Blu-ray, presumably to take advantage of his co-starring role in the upcoming THE EXPENDABLES 2, which will be the action star's first widely-released theatrical film since 1995's TOP DOG. The Blu-ray editions of MISSING IN ACTION (1984), MISSING IN ACTION 2: THE BEGINNING (1985), and THE DELTA FORCE (1986), with new artwork draping Chuck in the American flag, are exclusively available at Wal-Mart for now, but will be available through other retailers at some point in the next several months. Fox/MGM are also releasing a pair of other non-Cannon Norris films on Blu-ray on July 17 (not retailer exclusives): LONE WOLF MCQUADE (1983) and what many consider his best film, CODE OF SILENCE (1985).
MISSING IN ACTION
MISSING IN ACTION ended up being one of Cannon's most successful films, and is arguably the point where American moviegoers finally recognized Norris as a legitimate action star and stopped boxing him in as "just" a martial arts guy. The whole one-man-wrecking-crew motif is inherently absurd, but for the most part, MISSING IN ACTION is played totally straight, unlike many of the increasingly ridiculous films of the subgenre that came down the pike later (like many of the Italian ones, particularly 1987's STRIKE COMMANDO). The stoical Norris is a tough, mean bastard throughout, and for a Cannon genre outing, it gets better direction that you'd expect from Joseph Zito (who had FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER in theaters the same year). Zito often relies on long takes with fluid camera movements (watch the opening sequence) that do an effective job of making the action immediate and real. Watching it again after all these years, I was surprised to see that MISSING IN ACTION is not the non-stop shoot 'em up that you'd think it is. Rather, it plays more like a suspense thriller with periodic bursts of action. It's a revisionist fantasy (complete with the iconic shot of Norris rising from the water, gun blazing, blowing away some cackling VC, plus a great crowd-pleasing final shot), but it's surprisingly grim, respectful of its subject (Norris had a younger brother who was killed in Vietnam), and non-exploitative, which is more than you can say for a lot of the films that followed in its and RAMBO's wake. MGM's Blu-ray is framed at 1.85 and while not demo quality, is a definite upgrade from previous DVD editions, with a nice level of grain, texture, and detail throughout. Also with Roger Corman vet Lenore Kasdorf (FLY ME) as a State Dept. representative, a terrible Bangkok karaoke version of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," and, credited among the stuntmen, one "J. Claude Van Damme." (R, 102 mins)
MISSING IN ACTION 2: THE BEGINNING
|Chuck Norris 1, Huge Rat 0|
THE DELTA FORCE
|Lee Marvin (1924-1987)|