Runtime: 1 Hour
and 54 Minutes
I guess De Palma must have been upset. He must have been irate at
his lack of critical credibility and thought to himself "Hey,
I know, I'll make a war movie!" Ugh! What a mistake!
De Palma can be a dependable director, but not here, folks. It's hard
to imagine a film more wrong-headed than "Casualties of War".
Notice that I say "dependable" rather than "Brilliant".
I love "The Untouchables" and think it is one of the finest
films of the last twenty years. It is riveting, well-acted, suspenseful
and dynamic. It is a marvelous piece of work, with some amazing action
set pieces. Ditto with "Carrie", a film that has more intelligence
and genuine terror lurking in it than all the teenage screamer flicks
made afterward combined.
But he just doesn't seem to know what he's doing here.
Which is too bad, because the central story of "Casualties of
War" could have been a terrifying and harrowing film. In the
hands of Oliver Stone, for instance, the story of four G.I.'s abducting
and raping a peasant girl in the midst of the Vietnam war would have
been mighty unsettling and very dark, intense stuff. There are moments
of that intensity lurking here, but not nearly as many as a competent
movie could wring from the material.
For one thing, the casting is all wrong. Ving Rhames, John C. Reilly,
Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn and Dale Dye are all in this film, and each
and every one of them has done solid work in other films. But none
of them are very compelling here. In fact, I would go so far as to
say that everyone but Dale Dye and John Leguizamo does a horrible
job here. No, wait, that isn't quite fair. Fox tries, but he's just
totally wrong for the film. He seems way too happy at the beginning
of the film, and though he does an admirable attempt, he still can't
convince us that he is this character. It isn't entirely his fault.
The direction can't have helped. Neither can the fact that we keep
thinking of Alex P. Keaton or Marty McFly.
The atrocious, overly melodramatic dialogue doesn't help matters either.
It's just ghastly. Most of the lines just plain suck. You want Don
Horton and John C. Reilly to just shut up and die in the course of
this film. And Sean Penn's attempt at a Bronx accent is just horrible.
Awful! Penn, Horton and Reilly are just massively awful.
So is the production design of the film. A war film's atmosphere should
convince us that we are there. It should effortlessly put us on the
front lines. This movie looks like it was filmed on a leftover or
discarded set from a Rambo film. It's that bad. You get the sense
that the jungle ceases to exist a mere two feet on either side of
our view. The music is awful too. It's sappy and overbearing and utterly
inappropriate. The dialogue clunks in most scenes.
The only performer who truly distinguishes themselves is Thung Thu
Le as the poor girl who is abducted and raped. She doesn't speak English
in the film, which means that the screenwriter can't interfere with
her performance. She invents this poor girl simply with her eyes and
mannerisms and it all seems very authentic and disturbing.
Too bad there's so much of the other crap. This movie is just a mess.
An intriguing and potentially disturbing film that was lost somewhere
in the translation. I blame the shitty script and direction. So should