"Braddock: Missing in Action III," the new Chuck Norris film, is a relatively low-budget affair, so the body count just barely noses over 50. And with so little of the scarlet flowing you have to ask yourself, "Didn't they knock off nearly that many last week on 'Hunter'? Am I getting my dollar's worth, corpse-wise?"

The movie, which may be the third in the series but is the first to have major punctuation in its title, is about a mission that our hero, Col. James Braddock (Norris), organizes to rescue a sweater that he left on the seat next to him on a bus in Saigon 15 years earlier. The sweater, a navy cardigan, is the leathery tough guy's favorite ... What? All right, so Braddock doesn't go back for his sweater. He goes to rescue his wife and son. But so what? Would it have made any difference? This guy lives to go back. And he's made the trip so many times now that he qualifies for frequent-flier discounts.

The plot of this movie doesn't really matter. By now we know what the series is about: blowing up stuff. And what's the bestest stuff in the world to blow up? North Vietnamese soldiers? Right!

We could say that this is mind-bogglingly insulting, lowest-common-denominator-style filmmaking, that it's gratuitously racist and violent and just plain dumb, but then wouldn't that be stating the obvious? But what response would be fitting and adequate and not be obvious? Keening? Shrieking? A full-fledged, spread-eagle tantrum?

The most shameful thing about the "saga of Col. James Braddock," as the press notes describe these movies, is that they pretend to address issues -- this one's about "the sad plight of Amerasian children" -- when all they really do is declare open season on pretty much anything that moves. I mean, I've seen bake sales with more social consciousness. And entertainment value.

Here's a modest proposal: Nail Braddock's shoes to the floor and tell him that he left a puppy behind. Now, that's something I'd pay to see!

Braddock: Missing in Action III, at area theaters, is rated R, for guess what?