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movie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Connie Nielsen, Harry Connick Jr., Tim Daly

Review by Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

John Travolta's been a star for 28 years now so he's had some hits and some misses. This tepid, tiresome thriller about military intrigue falls in the latter category. Travolta plays Tom Hardy, a rogue ex-Army Ranger-turned-DEA agent, who's recruited by Col. Bill Styles (Tim Daly) to join Lt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen), a by-the-books provost marshal, to investigate why four Army rangers disappeared in the rainy Panamanian jungle during a routine exercise. Leading three recruits was brutal, sneering Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) under whom Hardy once served. A fourth trainee was found dead, a fifth (Giovanni Ribisi) was wounded, while a sixth (Brian Van Holt) is in custody as a prime suspect. While both survivors acknowledge that West and the others are dead, they tell two very different tales about what happened in the dark on the training mission and who is at fault. Then there's the ever-prevalent drug problem: Hardy is under suspicion of accepting bribes from local drug dealers and Pete Vilmer (Harry Connick Jr.), the highest-ranking base doctor, may be peddling drugs to the troops.

Screenwriter James Vanderbilt and director John McTiernan combine "Courage Under Fire" with "Roshomon," tossing in Sun Tzu's "The true warfare is deception...," meaning that there may be several truths. There's the truth we see and then there's the truth behind it. One appears to be reality; the other is reality. And the rest is just a convoluted, contrived conspiracy that's revealed in flashbacks. As for the touted "reunion" of memorable "Pulp Fiction" co-stars Travolta and Jackson, forget it; they share little time on-screen together. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Basic" is a slick, shallow 5 that leaves you with more questions than answers.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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