Hall of Fame: Col. James Braddock
Chuck Norris is an action movie icon. From his first credited role as Colt in The Way of the Dragon battling Bruce Lee inside the Roman Colosseum to his most recent movie appearance in 2012’s The Expendables 2. Chuck Norris and action movies are synonymous. But the one character in the decades long acting career that Chuck Norris played the most times on the silver screen was Col. James Braddock.
Now there was a chance that Braddock would have joined the likes of some of Norris’ other “one and done” characters like Eddie Cusack from Code of Silence, J.J. McQuade from Lone Wolf McQuade or Matt Hunter from Invasion U.S.A. (Michael Dudikoff would pick up the Matt Hunter mantle in the sequel Avenging Force). Movie folklore has told us that the movie Missing in Action 2: The Beginning was intended to be the first Missing in Action film. And the movie that we know as Missing in Action was actually the sequel. But Cannon Films, realizing the second movie (directed by Joe Zito) was actually the better movie released that first in 1984 under the name Missing in Action, then just four months later released the first movie (directed by Lance Hool) second and made it a prequel to the events of what was now the first film.
This strategy paid off… Missing in Action was second only to Breakin’ on the list of Cannon’s highest grossing films. And the success of the back to back releases of Missing in Action films in 1984 and 1985 paved the way for a third chapter in the series, Braddock: Missing in Action III, released in 1988. Both of the Missing in Action sequels made Cannon’s Top 25 highest grossing films of all-time. And when you consider just how many films Cannon produced each year, making the Top 25 is pretty damn impressive.
Some have accused Chuck Norris’ James Braddock of being nothing more than the discount version of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo. But don’t tell that to Chuck Norris. For Norris this role hit close to home. Norris’ younger brother Wieland was killed in the Vietnam War in 1970 and Norris made this film as a memorial to honor his departed brother.
The Braddock character is also unique in the fact that he basically has two different histories. There’s the story that the first two films follow, but in the third film Braddock may or may not have been a prisoner of war and we find out that during his time serving his country, he fell in love and married a Vietnamese woman. Mr. and Mrs. Braddock are separated by the chaos of the Fall of Saigon and Braddock returns to the United States of America under the assumption that his wife had died that day. Years later when he learns his wife and a son he never knew existed are still alive, Braddock returns to Vietnam to rescue them as only he can.
I don’t believe there is another actor in the world that owes more of his success to Cannon Films than Chuck Norris. Golan and Globus took Chuck Norris to heights he had never seen before and gave him his most identifiable movie character ever… Col. James Braddock.
Braddock can be described as a true American hero, a man’s man that is as tough as nails and now as a Bulletproof Action Hall of Famer.