March 25, 1985 12:00 PM

In terms of cinematic professionalism, Missing in Action was a step forward for Chuck Norris. This hurried prequel, however, amounts to at least two steps backward. Sodden and uninvolving, MIA 2 is related to the original only in that it uses the same central character, Norris, as an American Army officer captured in Vietnam. In The Beginning, Norris has been engaged in a 10-year battle of wills with the commandant of a POW camp, Soon-Teck Oh. To pressure Norris into signing a confession of war crimes, the commandant heaps such diabolical indignities on the Americans as choking one GI’s pet chicken and fibbing to Norris, “I didn’t want to tell you this. Your wife is planning to remarry.” The film lacks the hand-to-hand action on which Norris has built his reputation. Making his directorial debut, Lance Hool (he has produced a number of Charles Bronson films) displays paltry amounts of creative, natural and technical resources. The film appears to have been done on the cheap, so much so that if the only people to pay admission to see the movie are the actors’ families, it should still turn a profit. (R)

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