This movie feels like a script written for John Wayne that someone finally got around to filming 40 years later without any sense that times have changed. There are some good action sequences, but it is shamelessly one-sided and has cheesy wooden dialogue and even cheesier and numbingly predictable plot developments. This movie has every cliché except one — instead of a peppery commanding officer barking “That’s an order!” into a scratchy communications device, we get the underused Tom Skerritt pretty much telling his team to do whatever they think is best. Yeah, I’m sure that happens all the time.
Bruce Willis plays Lt. A.K. Waters, a guy who completes his missions. The latest is the rescue of an American (by marriage) doctor who runs a clinic in Nigeria that is in the path of rebel forces. The doctor is the kind you only see in movies or bodice-ripper novels — a beautiful woman whose shirt is always getting ripped in just the fetchingly right place while her make-up stays perfect, a spitfire who stamps her foot and tosses her fetchingly tousled hair and slaps A.K.’s cheek but later has to tell him that she now understands what an honorable and brave guy he really was all along.
Meanwhile, we get to see A.K. say, “I broke my own rule. I gave a ****.” For his own survival, he had shut down his emotions. But the beautiful doctor and the ravaged people taught him that what he should do is ignore his orders and put the lives of his men at risk. He and his men go into a town where the bad guys have already killed almost everyone and just mow the bad guys down with machine guns. He puts his men at risk. Many are killed and the others are severly wounded. He defies American diplomatic policy going back to the Monroe Doctrine. But the point of the movie seems to be that this is unqualifiedly a good thing and that in fact it is the job of a Navy Lieutenant to determine what our foreign policy should be and then just carry it out. There is no sense of the complexity of American intervention into a tragic civil conflict and no sense of the consequences of his choices.
A.K. may have learned to care, but that does not appear to be true of Willis. He does all right with the weary, man-of-the-world, let-me-handle-this moments. But, for example, when he is called upon to give a stirring “be a man” pep talk to a shaken Nigerian who has just seen everyone he cares about killed, the best he can do is bark, “Cowboy the **** up!” Monica Bellucci may be as talented as her press reports claim, but there is no way to tell that from her kittenish performance here.
Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, including racial epithets, intense peril, execution of non-military citizens, and brutal battle violence. Many characters are wounded or killed. A woman is mutilated.
Families who see this movie should talk about how countries decide whether to intervene in other countries’ fights. Does the movie intentionally comment on the current international situation? How well does or doesn’t it make its case? Why did A.K. stop caring and when did he start again?
Families who enjoy this movie will also appreciate “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now.”