Pin It

Scold Warrior 

by Ray Pride

Hart's War is many things, none of them memorable or really even very good. First and foremost, I suppose, is that it enters the post-Sept. 11 marketplace as a World War II picture about integrity. Or perhaps for perennial underdog studio MGM, it's a Bruce Willis is-he-a-good-guy, is-he-a-bad-guy hard-ass action story that cuts together nicely as a 30-second television spot.

But as the movie begins, it's notable as an art film, a kind of journey into the dark of day, where daylight's a matter of relative darks, shot with such a wet, rainy mood you'd swear the cinematographer was a veteran of Polish cinema (in fact, the tremendously versatile Alar Kivilo is a Finn, and he shot the equally chilly A Simple Plan). But after the sleight-of-hand in a lovely opening action sequence -- a Jeep-machine-gun-and-airplane battle cut together from a stellar selection of compacted focal lengths, eccentric camera placements and dazzling bits of action detail -- we're introduced to Tommy Hart, an earnest young Irish American with a shaky accent who's on a train to a German POW camp in the last days of World War II. We might hope for a revisiting of the wartime misadventures of The Dirty Dozen or Stalag 17.

But it doesn't get better: we're in for a spoiled pretty-boy-against-the-system thriller (An Officer and a Preppie, anyone?). But we are not yet at the end of the line. In fact, director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fallen) is setting us up for a strenuous courtroom drama, a makeshift court martial assembled to try a soldier who is blatantly innocent for murder. Why does Willis' sober Col. William McNamara, who runs the barracks of officers and enlisted men, want this man tried, convicted and dispensed with? Plot twists ensue -- few fresh, none believable.

Set almost entirely inside the camp, Hart's War is about as thrilling as watching television with a Tourette's-worthy complement of F-words. Ah, but then the truest agenda is revealed: we are watching a message movie. Hart's War has arrived to tell us at this late date in the history of American movies that racism is wrong, and that the Black soldier who is being railroaded can teach us all, particularly the film's white characters, a lesson about what integrity, honor and sacrifice can be. You can imagine Hoblit with fellow director Frank Darabont, having cool Martinis at Hollywood's Musso & amp; Frank, discussing the potential of the Noble Negro as a plot device.

Can one man's sacrifice change the lives of his fellow soldiers? Excellent topic, ripe with drama. Terrence Howard, a charming actor shoehorned into a cardboard role, does all he can do with the mush he's given to speak. But the script is 40-year-old nonsense that would have been insulting in the mid-1960s when Sidney Poitier was the first, but sadly not the last, bearer of such upstandingly righteous roles.

Hoblit's stately horrors are accompanied by a score by Rachel Portman (The Full Monty), and the production design is by Lily Kilvert. It's interesting that such a movie has two key collaborators who are women, yet it just shows they can get down in the dirt and do second-rate work as well as the men can.

"F---- you!" as Willis gets to say in Die Hard-grimace harder mode, "What the f---- would you know about duty?"

Movies can be many things, but they are all too often only acts of representation, of reheating cliches, rather than being works of witness. A movie about integrity should leave you more to ponder than the stability of Willis' hairpiece in a series of gusts, gales and cartoonish display of anger.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Resistance
  • La Resistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Lego Club

Lego Club @ Deer Park Library

Thursdays, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Continues through May 25

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ray Pride

  • Cuts Like a Knife

    There's a question that must be asked about the third part of every trilogy: Is it necessary to see the first two films in order to enjoy the third one? In the case of Blade: Trinity, all you need to know about the previous episodes is that
    • Dec 10, 2004
  • Love Bites

    Love: the foremost four-letter word. Or at least it is in Mike Nichols' glossy yet stormy adaptation of Patrick Marber's 1997 world-weary hit play, Closer, which collates the most intense moments in the romantic lives of a quartet of modern-d
    • Dec 2, 2004
  • Sick Individuals

    I wanted to vomit. It's a learned reflex in this profession, looking away from the screen, but the premise of first-time director James Wan's Saw, a puzzle-game serial killer thriller -- described in the Sundance 2004 catalog as "indelible hor
    • Oct 28, 2004
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment




green zone


Readers also liked…

  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation