Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4
Pow! Boom! Bang! Crash! Welcome to war, as envisioned by producer Jerry
Bruckheimer, in which flash wins over substance every time. As he did in
PEARL HARBOR, Bruckheimer again cheapens the bravery of our soldiers. In
BLACK HAWK DOWN, directed by Ridley Scott (GLADIATOR), actors are so
interchangeable that you can't tell them apart. The same guy could die
three times over, and the audience would never know the difference. Again,
casting for marketability over acting ability, the pretty boy star of PEARL
HARBOR, Josh Hartnett, is given one of the few leads. Hartnett is an acting
lightweight who has trouble with even a supporting role. Since Bruckheimer
prefers pictures starring explosions and special effects rather than humans,
Hartnett's limitations aren't much of a liability. Besides, think of all
the tickets his face sells.
Ken Nolan and Steven Zaillian's confusing script, based on Mark Bowden's
book, is based on a true story. Like the much better BEHIND ENEMY LINES,
the movie involves a rescue mission in a hostile area. This time it's 1993
in Somalia, where our troops are in the country for poorly defined
objectives. One day, we set out to bring back a couple of major bad guys,
but two of our Black Hawk helicopters go down in the process. The movie
concerns the rescue mission to save the helicopter crews. After their
rescuers get trapped, we have to send in more troops to rescue the rescuers.
When the rescue squad arrives, the wounded can't believe what they see.
"Hey, where is the rescue squad?" one of the trapped soldiers asks the small
force sent to their aid. "We're it," the leader of squad replies.
Even if it isn't a very good film, it does raise some key questions. Before
the original operation gets underway, Maj. Gen. William Garrison (Sam
Shepard) complains that they weren't given the resources that they need. It
seems that the Clinton administration wouldn't give it to them since that
would make the operation "too high profile." Watching our rag-tag force
being outgunned is embarrassing. We had only bullets, while the other side
had larger forces and lots of rockets and missiles. Of course, this is
taking the movie at face value, which, admittedly, is always dangerous in a
Bruckheimer version of history.
The movie features almost two-and-a-half hours of non-stop violence and
frequent turn-your-head gore. Given the absence of much narrative drive,
except for a digital clock, an hour less would have been more than enough.
BLACK HAWK DOWN runs 2:23. It is rated R for "intense, realistic, graphic
war violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes