Made in between the David Warbeck and Lewis Collins jungle war trilogies, Tornado is something of the odd one out amongst Antonio Margheriti, Tito Carpi and Gianfranco Couyoumdijan’s 80s war entries.
Though there is still plenty of action, stunts and things exploding, it’s more of a message movie with stronger defined characters and situations than normal. The big surprise, in terms of the traditional derivativeness of the Italian genre film, is that as a Vietnam war film it was made after First Blood, but before Rambo, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and company, and as such emerges as a film which innovates as much as it imitates.
At the core of the film is the conflict between two Green Berets, one a Captain and the other a sergeant. The Captain believes that the war against the Vietcong could and must still be won and, as a demonstration of this, relentlessly sends his men on what Sergeant Maggio surmises to be pointless, high risk missions.
To the captain the men are fundamentally resources excepted to follow orders, whatever they are, while to the sergeant the are human beings who need to be protected against his superiors' growing Kurtzian madness.
In the middle is journalist Freeman, played by Alan Collins / Luciano Pigozzi, who provides a sounding board and critique for both men's perspectives whilst also making clear where his own sympathies lie.
After one mission Maggio is left behind by the helicopter support and forced to bring a wounded soldier back to camp via a canoe. Though the soldier, a promising athlete, survives he proves unable to come to terms with the amputation of his leg and thus shoots himself.
Flying into a rage, the Sergeant has to be restrained by his troops, before being goaded by the Captain into attacking.
Arrested by the reluctant Military Police, Maggio is taken to another base where he will be held until his court martial. The Vietcong attack, giving him a chance to escape for the Cambodian border.
At this point the Rambo element comes to the fore as the Captain takes an ironic pride in the achievements of his “creation,” praising Maggio’s resourcefulness in evading the Vietcong whilst also making it clear that he intends to himself capture and execute his underling for desertion.
Action and direction wise it’s pretty much the standard Margheriti fare, with model work and stock footage being used to compensate for the low budget and a certain gung-ho treatment of the battle scenes. Some torture scenes involving Maggio are also of note as an indicator of what might have happened to Charlie and Tom in Cannibal Apocalypse.