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

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

BASIC, by director John McTiernan (ROLLERBALL) and writer James Vanderbilt, whose only other script was the laughably bad DARKNESS FALLS, is like two movies in one.

One of these is a complete waste of time. This waterlogged and convoluted tale, set in a jungle during a torrential downpour and non-stop lightening, is told in flashback. Someone kills the monstrous Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who hazed his men every chance he got. Several other soldiers die as well in this night-time conflagration in the jungle.

Much better is what happens in the present as DEA Agent Tom Hardy (John Travolta) and Lt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) interrogate the survivors. Dunbar (Brian Van Holt) and Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), the only two survivors of this incident, have different stories about what occurred and who is to blame for the deaths. But the movie's last act, which insults the viewers' intelligence right and left, brings in too many facts completely out of left field.

Only Travolta's over-the-top performance -- Does he have any other kind? -- and the story's very last twist are much fun. The movie lumbers along until it decides to reveal its truths. The guy at the top of the story's big conspiracy is so obvious that it had our audience screaming out his name in disgust. You may feel like screaming too. Personally, I think the studio should have screamed, "Rewrite!" before they greenlit the movie.

BASIC runs 1:38. It is rated R for "violence and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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