6 January 2000 | Tin Man-5
I'll give the plot its props, but the production values are terrible!
"Dead Men Can't Dance" is a film that relies heavily on other films, interweaving plot conflicts and cliches that we've seen a million times before into one motion picture. However, the ones they use to combine work nicely: A small all-women platoon fights its way through Vietnam, trying to figure out which among them are spies and which in the government are the villians working alongside the enemy. Sure, we've seen it all before, but in order for a film like this to work, it must take the cliches seriously and make sure they flow and interlap smoothly. This film does that, and it knows how to make them work. After all, this is a movie trying to be an action flick, not a serious approach to the Vietnam War.
The cast is generally good- Michael Biehn, Mark Edward Anderson, and Adrian Paul stand out as the men trying to lead the women to victory, and most of the women, played by a bunch of unknowns, are well played. Its almost as if all the actors know that their characters are paper-thin and designed to be cardboard cutouts, and they choose to have fun with it. This factor helps tremendously.
However, despite these pluses, the film as a whole is extremely poor. The camera work is shoddy, and the production values are terrible. It looks as if it was filmed with a cam corder most of the time, and the synthesizer music only adds to its cheeziness. Some directors can hide a low budget (1993's "Fortress" is a good example). This guy, however, cannot. The results are an impressive, if overused, plot with lousy details around it. And if you don't have the visuals mastered in war films, you don't have anything.
*1/2 out of ****