Review Date: March 24, 2003
Director: John McTiernan
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Producers: Mike Medavoy, Arnie Messer
Samuel L. Jackson
An experienced Ranger is called into base to preside over a case of six young soldiers who went into a Panamanian jungle with their gung-ho leader, with only two coming back alive. It's his job to interrogate the remaining soldiers and to figure out what went wrong, who killed whom and who might be the mastermind behind the whole shebang? Ron Jeremy, perhaps? Find out...
For a film sporting the extremely straight-to-video-lame-ass title of BASIC, this movie is anything but! Talk about over-playing an already over-played plotline! There's nothing wrong with a military flick taking a twist around this corner or tossing a revelation, another perspective or a possible phony interrogation into its proceedings, but if it's going to drown out its own reason for being by twisting upon its twists and turning upon its turns, I tend to tune out on account of the ol' "I don't give a shit anymore" factor. Oh...so what such-and-such was saying was a complete lie? Interesting. What's that? What the other dude was mumbling about was only partly true, but not in the same way that the other guy thought it was? Uuuuhmmm, intriguing...I think. In the end, this film was just plain ol' confusing and as much as my buddy and I (yes, I'm talking about the buddy in my pants!) tried to come up with a logical, hole-free explanation to this tangled web of red herrings upon twists upon noogies upon babes in military garb...we simply could not come up with a cohesive, untangled explanation of the jumbled whole. And even though I dug the fact that most of the film was set under extremely rainy circumstances, I can't say that it helped in terms of understanding what every person was saying at all times. So the film scores some points for its ambitious screenplay, but loses others because...well, it's too ambitious? Consider those the main reasons as to why I wouldn't recommend that you leave your home to see this flick on the big screen.
Having said that, the film does have its bright points as well. For one, director John McTiernan is given a reprieve from his disastrous outing behind the lens of 2002's ROLLERBALL and returns with some palpable suspense, many cool, dark-lit, wet circumstances in the jungle, a quick opening pace and a nice flow. For two, a certain John Travolta is back in his "Travolta" form with a fun turn as the son-of-a-gun with an attitude as big as his drinking problem. Travolta plays this guy to the tee and along with his munchy dialogue, was a joy to watch. Sam Jackson also comes to play as the badass sergeant and if you're going to present Mr. Jackson with a screenplay packed with F-bombs, you better prepare yourself for a good time. And finally, I really enjoyed the way they capped things off. I didn't particularly care for the final build-up to the conclusion, which was too convoluted and garbled for me to give a damn anymore, but I did like the actual final sequence, in which much was revealed and I kinda chuckled to myself (and my pants). Add that to the lovely Connie Nielsen strutting about in lovely military attire (with an accent that came and went like Karen Lynn Gorney's acting career) and expect to be somewhat entertained, especially if you're one of those people who doesn't mind if a movie doesn't completely, well...make sense! Not the disaster that I thought it might be, but definitely not a "winner" either.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian