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Black Hawk Down

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Black Hawk Down

Starring: Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor
Director: Ridley Scott
Rated: R
RunTime: 143 Minutes
Release Date: January 2002
Genres: Action, War, Drama

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
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4.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review movie reviewmovie review
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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

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