A criminal subculture operates among U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall.A criminal subculture operates among U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall.A criminal subculture operates among U.S. soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall.
Of course, we all know that this film practically vanished after 9/11; suddenly America didn't want anything that seemed to be attacking America or the dedicated American soldier. This was unfortunate as the film isn't as blatantly anti-war or anti-American as I had been led to believe. Rather it is a dark comedy that looks at the reality of army life during peacetime. In fairness though it does show the soldiers out for cash, high on drugs and certainly not fitting the image that made Time magazine pick `the American soldier' as man of the year for 2003.
The basic plot makes MASH look like some sort of kids game - where Hawk-Eye made drink in his tent, Elwood cooks coke and deals in stolen weapons. The story works quite well although some of it didn't totally work and some of the characters and action didn't really make sense. It was amusing without being laugh out loud funny, although this wasn't so much of a problem as I certainly didn't expect it to be an out and out comedy. The drama works better than the comedy and it is for this reason it is a better attack on the ideal of the military. The upper levels of the military also take a knock; being shown as focused on rank climbing rather than keeping a sharp military machine well oiled!
The cast is good on the whole - both on paper and on the screen. Phoenix leads the film really well and delivers a likeable character that is still abhorrent enough to be seen as an attack rather than a spoof. Harris is OK but he only has a small role and it doesn't totally fit in with the main narrative very well - likewise McGovern. Pacquin is pretty cool but her character was a bit of a mystery to me but Glenn is well cast and he is able to deliver the goods in a borderline nuts character; only problem with his performance was that I didn't totally understand his character's aims by the end of the film. Both Leon and Pena were good in support and Dean Stockwell has an OK cameo.
Overall this was a good film despite the fact that it had a plot that was a little weakened by the side issues and characters who aren't totally clear in terms of what they're all about. Aside from this the film is pretty entertaining and is actually quite matter of fact in it's portrayal of military life rather than being scathing - coming from Northern Ireland, I have seen all sorts of stuff done by squaddies and am well aware of how true this can be! But to label it anti-American is just plain daft!
- bob the moo
- Jan 1, 2004