In this, the third installment of the hit Missing in Action series Chuck Norris returns as Colonel James Braddock, the rugged, battle-scarred Vietnam War veteran. Slated for U.S. release in January, Braddock: Missing in Action III focuses on the sad plight of Amer-asian children — the orphans of Vietnam, born of native mothers and American G.I.s — and it is Braddock’s decision to come to their aid that gives this film its heroic profile.
When Chuck Norris, his brother Aaron Norris (who makes his directorial debut in this film) and co-screenwriter James Bruner began writing the story for Braddock: Missing in Action III in the fall of 1986, they were facing quite a challenge. They knew this latest Brad-dock adventure would inevitably be compared with the original film Missing in Action and its sequel, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, and that they needed an all-encompassing theme. The idea for using Amerasian children as the dramatic center of Braddock: Missing in Action Ill came from Aaron Norris, who had recently seen a TV documentary on the subject. Accord-ing to a Public Broadcasting Station (KQED, San Francisco) report, approximately 15,000 Amerasians live in Vietnam — some with families, most in orphanages. Because of their Anglicized features but more fundamentally be-cause they remind people of the U.S. “oppressors,” most of these children are victims of discrimination, and occasionally ostracism, in their native land. Roughly 4,000 have left the country to live with their fathers in the U.S. since the war’s end. Bruner and Chuck Norris completed the script in mid-November 1986, and submitted it to Cannon Films chairman Menahem Golan. Golan revised the script over the next few months. It was decided that the filming site, as with the two previous M.I.A.s, would be in the Philippines.
With Norris ready to reprise the role of Braddock, an Asian-American cast was assembled. Veteran actor Aki Aleong, who won attention as the POW camp commander in Cannon’s The Hanoi Hilton, was chosen to portray the sadistic General Quoc, MIA Ill’s antagonist. Miki Kim a Los Angeles stage actress, was selected to portray Braddock’s long-lost wife, Lin Tan Cang. As their son, Van Tan Cang, the 12-year-old Roland Harrah, Ill won the role — partly due to his own Amerasian heritage. Downtown Manila stands in for Saigon, circa 1975, and also substitutes for present-day Bangkok. Puerto Azul, with its flatlands and rice paddies, was used for the finale, and the dense jungle of Pag Sanyan for the final chase sequence as Braddock and the children make their escape. Additional scenes were shot in July 1987 in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. “This is a different Braddock than the vengeance-driven character of before,” says director Aaron Norris. “He reaches a new emotional plateau in this film, a wholeness of character that wasn’t quite grasped in the earlier versions. He begins the adventure as a father looking to reclaim his wife and son, and that’s something that hits home with all of us. “But by laying himself on the line for the children, these orphans of the war, he becomes a hero in the compassionate, selfless sense, instead of just a good guy who kills the bad guys.
Braddock concludes on a humanitarian, upbeat note. Braddock has become, finally, a man who stands more for the future than the past.” Chuck Norris has, over the last decade, evolved on the screen from a cult martial arts star to his current status as America’s allaround tough guy. Over the years, with his roles in such films as Lone Wolf McQuade, Code of Silence and Invasion U.S.A., Norris has created a modest All-American hero. For this he continues to enjoy worldwide popularity. Perhaps this is because among today’s ruthlessly cool galaxy of film stars, Norris is the best example of the true-blue, old-fashioned good guy. With the relase of Lone Wolf McQuade in 1983, Norris began to grow out of the martial arts mold and develop his own persona. That development culminated in Missing in Action in November 1984, in which Norris first portrayed the no-nonsense Colonel Braddock. Missing in Action became the biggest box-office grosser that year among independent filmmakers.
Further, it was the original film that launched the current Hollywood emphasis on Vietnam movies, such as the Rambo series with Sly Stallone and such critically acclaimed films as Platoon. Chuck Norris has a very personal reason for wanting to do films about the Vietnam War. His younger brother, Wieland Norris, was killed in Vietnam in 1970. Admits Norris in his book, The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story, “It was the single most tragic event in my life.” The MIA films are Chuck’s tribute to Wieland. They also serve as a statement on behalf of the families of the nearly 2,500 soldiers still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. “My heart goes out to those families,” writes Norris, “because even though losing Wieland was a tragic experience for me, at least I know that he is dead and where he is buried. But if I were a member of the family of an MIA and didn’t know whether he was dead or alive, I would have a hard time dealing with that uncertainty.”