Basic

Posted on March 27, 2003 at 3:10 pm

D
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, drug dealing
Violence/ Scariness: Intense peril, shooting, grenades, characters killed
Diversity Issues: Strong minority and female characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2003

It’s probably not even worth explaining the premise of this sorry attempt at a thriller because the “basic”premise is to tell you one thing and then turn it upside down and then do that again about six more times in ninety minutes. But here goes: John Travolta plays Tom Hardy, a DEA agent called in to investigate some mysterious deaths at his old Ranger base in Panama. One surviving soldier has returned from an arduous training mission, but three others have not, and he refuses to talk to anyone but a fellow Ranger.

He talks to Hardy, but the story he tells is contradicted by the other survivor, the gay son of one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Giovanni Ribisi), who is in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound. As each tells the story, we see it re-enacted, in one of the most tiresome of movie conventions, the subjective flashback that exists just for the “gotcha!” when we find out that it was unreliable. By the time we have seen the same story with variations all those times, we really don’t care any more which version is right. It doesn’t help much that the final answer is so nonsensical.

The dialogue is terrible. Fortunately, it is frequently drowned out by the incessant rainstorms that howl throughout all the flashbacks. The rain also makes it difficult to tell the characters apart, even in this standard army every-soldier-has-just-one-identifying-characteristic format. Those who are looking forward to seeing Travolta reunited with his “Pulp Fiction” co-start Samuel L. Jackson should know that they appear together only very briefly, and, in any event, their performances are among the most single-dimensioned they have ever given. Jackson just yells and Travolta just grins. Furthermore, Connie Nielson has the worst attempt at a Southern accent in memory.

Parent should know that this is a very violent movie with many character deaths. Characters smoke (one who gave up smoking years earlier takes a cigarette to relieve stress). Characters have alcohol and drug abuse problems and some characters deal in illegal pharmaceuticals and cocaine. Characters use very strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about the various forms of betrayal and loyalty it illustrates.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the far better “A Soldier’s Story” and “A Few Good Men.”

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