Black Hawk Down
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 4 Beans
lack Hawk Down For The Count. This little piece was brought to us by Jerry Bruckenheimer (Pearl Harbor) and Ridley Scott (Hannibal). The effects and acting isn't bad, but its the directors and writers who should be court martialled and tossed in the stockade.
Black Hawk Down is the story of the botched raid to capture Adid in Mogadishu in 1994. The Rangers and Delta Force attachment managed to escape with their entire force (including corpses, with one gruesome exception) and slug their way out of a city teeming with enemy milita. This was accomplished through valor, training and firepower. It is a shame that most Americans only think of the disgusting aftermath (the denuded corpse of Crew Chief Bill Cleveland being pulled through the streets and subjected to indignities amidst cheering Somalis) and overlook the incredible heroism and deadly effectiveness of our top forces.
It is touching that a tribute is made for the men who beat the odds that day, but the movie sucks. It seems to be riding this tide of Hollywood jingoism since 9/11 that states: who cares about storytelling, let's just show America's foes getting slaughtered and call it a movie.
The big problem with this film is storytelling. First of all, none of the main characters are distinct in any way. They all look, act, and talk the same. In fact, six times in the movie, I thought Grimes (Ewan McGregor) just got chopped, but it turns out it was just an extra who looked like him. When characters are not well defined, it is difficult to care anything about them.
It is hard to complain about the usual preposterous body count, because literally hundreds of Somalis were indeed killed in the firefight. But 99% of the movie shows Somalis convulsing in a hail of bullets, getting blown apart, or falling down. What precious few Somalis are characterized proves that Bruckenheimer is a racist (something I suspected since "Pearl Harbor"). In fact, this whole movie plays out like the end of D.W. Griffith's Birth of A Nation, only stretched out over two hours: the "pure" Aryan, white heroes violently fending off an ocean of "evil" black people.
The action sequences were, despite their excellent special effects, boring because they were so repetitive. This is the crux of the problem with this movie:
A.) No Progress. WHAT exactly are the Rangers doing? Holing up in an Alamo-style defense? Rescuing the chopper? Getting back to base? They are doing something different in nearly every frame.
B.) Geography. This movie is never clear on how far who is away from whom. It never hints at where the Humvee Caravan actually is, just that it is lost.
C.) Repetition. In Saving Private Ryan, the war violence was horrifically accurate, and came in small yet incredibly potent doses. Here, most of the victims simply fall down when shot. Over and over and over. I was getting bored, and suspected a lot of the victims were the same footage, looped.
There were other issues, as well:
D.) PC Inaccuracy. There is a scene in the movie where a Ranger has his sights trained on a grieving widow, who snatches up an AK-47. He is imploring, "Don't do it... don't do it..." and when she points the weapon at him, he shoots her. The next shot shows him stricken with remorse. Yes, chivalrous, but inaccurate. According to Bowden's book, nearly a third of the Somalis killed were women. In fact, some of them were even carrying babies in their left and shooting with their right. The Rangers had no qualms shooting them -- after all, when your life is at stake, an enemy is an enemy. Come on, Jerry B -- you show us all this terrible violence but you obviously are not realistic about the ways of war.
E.) Lousy dialogue. Granted, these are soldiers, not linguists, so they aren't going to be speaking in sonnets. But they shouldn't speak only in cliches, either. Almost all the dialogue is like "When the bullets fly, politics go out the window," or "We're not JROTC, we're elite." Ugh. Probably more Bruckenheimer writing. Like "Pearl Harbor," the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious.
F.) Lack of Setup: WHY are the Rangers here? What are they hoping to accomplish? In fact, WHO is this fellow they are trying to capture? It just assumes that you know, or more likely, just assumes it is not important. But it is.
The movie isn't nearly as bad as most I have reviewed on this site. But despite all the firefights and violence, it drags almost throughout. In fact, the dull exposition of the Rangers in training was much more interesting than the actual mission. Not only is the violence repetitive, it also gives us no goal that the heroes are striving for. Most of the movie is a mobius strip of violence without any plot. 4 Beans! (Slams gavel) Next case!
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