Vietnam vets band together to prove their UNCOMMON VALOR
“Boy, you just bought the whole can of whup-ass!”
In the 1980s there was a big surge in Vietnam themed war movies. From the Rambo and Missing in Action series to Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. They covered both the experiences of the soldiers in war and the aftermaths upon their return home. One of the best in the “Vets Rescue Mission” subgenre is UNCOMMON VALOR. This was actually Ted Kotcheff’s second movie dealing with Vietnam vets, he had just made the great First Blood a year prior. This movie’s story focuses on retired Marine Colonel Jason Rhodes (Gene Hackman) whose son Frank has been Missing in Action since the war ended. Rhodes at first tries to get the government’s assistance to search for his son but it’s to no avail. His extreme determination to bring Frank back alive then leads him to do things his own way. He tracks down a group of Vietnam vets, all of which have extensive combat experience and asks for their help. Several of them were in Frank’s own squad. They are Wilkes (Fred Ward) a tunnel rat who suffers from PTSD, Sailor (Randall “Tex” Cobb) a loose cannon with an unbreakable loyalty and Blaster (Reb Brown) an affable demolitions expert. Two Nam helicopter pilots, Johnson (Harold Sylvester) and Charts (Tim Thomerson) along with a former Recon Marine, Kevin Scott (Patrick Swayze) who was too young for Nam are also brought on. The movie is basically a remake of The Dirty Dozen but with Vietnam vets instead of World War II criminal soldiers. I think on the surface it seems sort of cliche plotwise but what makes Uncommon Valor hold up so well all these years later is how it depicts the camraderie and trust amongst the group. Each of the men have to overcome their past and bond together as brothers once again to complete the mission at hand. Patrick Swayze, who went on to star in Red Dawn, Dirty Dancing and Road House, stands out as Mr. Scott the young hotheaded rookie who has to prove himself to the other men. Once they get through the training, they go on the actual mission and the exciting action starts as they all work together to bring back as many POWs as they can. Uncommon Valor remains a classic of its genre and along with the usual explosions and shootouts you get in this kind of film, it still packs quite an emotional punch as well.