Review Date: February 09, 2006
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: David Collard
Producers: Mark Vahradian, Damien Saccani
James Franco as Jake
Jordana Brewster as Ali
Tyrese Gibson as Cole
“Ball-less” is the word that kept coming to my mind as I watched this 95-minute WB poor man’s version of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, which despite attempting to copy specific parts from that film directly (black officer vs white recruit, boxing match between foes, thoughts of desertion, chick complications and suicide mumbo-jumbo), doesn’t even come close to reaching that film’s emotional or dramatic core, but even more importantly, any real deep connection to today’s audience. Other than the film’s tepid script, packed with a number of one-dimensional characters like the film’s lead (could we care less about this guy??), I believe that part of the film’s problem also lay in its casting, which despite featuring a number of actors whom I dig (Franco, Tyrese, Wahlberg and the square-jawed, yet quite gorgeous, Jordana Brewster), featured a number of them in unbelievably high rank posts in the Navy, such that baby-faced folk like Wahlberg and Brewster were overlooking the so-called “new recruits”, many of whom appeared to be older than them. Huh? Add to that, a lame-ass romantic subplot between Franco and Brewster (zero chemistry), embarrassingly see-through political correctness with the white Franco rooming with an all-color cast of recruits including an Asian, a black and a Hispanic, and ultimately, a predictable screenplay, which for some odd reason, takes a right turn at Albuquerque at about the one hour mark, and turns it into an even lamer boxing movie, complete with slow-motion montage training sessions, all the way up to the “big finish” mano-a-mano fight complete with slow-motion punches and obvious emotional tie-ups.
Oh, and did I mention that there’s absolutely no swearing at this Naval Academy training facility (these guys could learn a thing or two about motivating their recruits from the great R. Lee Ermey and FULL METAL JACKET) and not one officer ever stands in front of a smarmy recruit and says those words that we all wait for in every Armed Forces recruitment flick: “You eyeballing me, boy?!”. I wish there was more eye-balling in this movie, but even more so, I wish there were actual balls hanging off it as everything from the emotionally vacant papa to the weak romance, the all-brooding performance by Franco and the overall uninspired nature of the script led to this negative review, which sucks for me, since I honestly dig these generic “inspirational” stories sometimes, especially if they’ve got their heart in the right place and a half-decent script going for it. This film had very little on its mind other than making sure that the 12-to-14 year old girls who went to see it would be impressed enough to tell their MySpace friends about it. Other than that, it’s about as forgettable as most movies drop-kicked out of Hollywood during the months of January and February.