February 08, 1988 12:00 PM

If this Chuck Norris commando series goes on very much longer, our game hero will be reduced to returning to Vietnam to recover a favorite pocket comb he dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This time, Chuck’s excuse for going back is to find the Vietnamese wife he thought was dead and the son he never knew existed. As long as he’s in-country and has a free weekend, he decides he might as well lead a bunch of Amerasian children across 200 miles of impenetrable jungle to freedom in Thailand. Historically, Norris films are basically cinematic versions of professional wrestling, silly morality plays decked out with a lot of exaggerated violence. Unfortunately, first-time director Aaron Norris (Chuck’s brother) labored under the misapprehension that he was supposed to be making a movie here. So he slavishly unfolds a sappy Little House on the Rice Paddy story that hardly ever gets around to exploiting Chuck’s true talents. Oh, there’s a car chase, a handful of karate moves and some small arms fire, but for diehard action fans, Missing In Action III represents mainly a long wait for a pitiful payoff. (R)

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