Thursday, April 3, 2014

APOCALYPSE NOW (2) vs. TUNNEL RATS (15)



VS.
 
 
 



ACTING
The acting in “Apocalypse Now” is top notch overall. Martin Sheen is perfect as Willard. It’s easy to overlook his narrative readings which added greatly to the film. He portrays Willard as a weary assassin who is good at his job and aware of its moral ambiguities. The supporting cast is strong. Duvall shows the range that made him one of our great actors. His performance is iconic and he dominates his screen time. The PBR crew is solid. However, Fishburne does come off as a rookie actor and Bottoms was only partially acting since he was literally on drugs for most of the shoot. As far as Hopper, the film did revive his career, but you get the impression he is simply playing himself. The elephant in the room (get it?) was Brando. He almost drags the last part of the film down. B

“Tunnel Rats” has a cast of some of the best stars ever to appear - in a Uwe Boll film. In other words, the actors are terrible. The only halfway recognizable name is Michael Pare. His previous movie before this one was “Ninja Cheerleaders”. Nuff’ said. The rest of the cast is now working at McDonalds. D

FIRST QUARTER SCORE
Apocalypse Now = 8
Tunnel Rats = 6


PLOT

The plot of “Apocalypse Now” is based on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The protagonist, Willard, is sent deep into the tiger-infested bush to terminate the Montagnard command of the off the reservation, formerly team-player Col. Kurtz. The first two-thirds of the film are mesmerizing. The odyssey format works well and the flow from exposition to intense action is fine. The vignettes are bizarre. The movie builds eerily to arrival at the final act. There is suspense and pathos. Most of the scenes are unforgettable. Unfortunately, the final act stumbles around in search of an ending. B

“Tunnel Rats” is exactly the opposite. There are no frills in its plot. It is a straight-forward march to oblivion for all the characters. The arc involves the attempts by an “elite” American force to ferret out the enemy in their tunnel system near their jungle base camp. The haunted house / “Saw” approach to the tunnel scenes are joined by a rip-snorting VC assault on the camp. The numerous deaths do have a variety to them. Much of what happens is preposterous, but the movie does flow in a “what do you expect from a movie like this?” sort of way. D

HALF TIME SCORE
Apocalypse Now = 16
Tunnel Rats = 12


COMBAT

“Apocalypse Now” is not really built around combat, but it does have one of the great combat scenes in cinema. The helicopter assault on the Viet Cong village to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries” is unmatched. While it is search and destroy on steroids, it does accurately reflect the ability of the Air Cavalry to rein death on relatively stationary enemy positions. Its moments like this that made Americans think we were winning the war. The other two scenes that could be called combat are too surrealistic to be taken seriously. The bridge that is rebuild during the day and blown up night in an LSD haze and the ambush of the gun boat via arrows and one spear are allegorical. B

“Tunnel Rats” is combat porn. It has cursory banter and character development so we will care when the Americans die. The violence is extreme and the second half Is full of it. The movie is a little outside the box because a lot of the combat is underground in the tunnels. This action is fairly interesting. As far as the above ground action, quantity is the only goal. It is the firing M-60s from the hip style. The deaths are the type you see when the actor feels this may be his last acting performance so let’s make it memorable. With this said, after seeing so many Vietnam War movies that don’t put much emphasis on combat, you have to credit the film for having plenty of it. B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE
Apocalypse Now = 24
Tunnel Rats = 20


REALISM

Although Coppola claimed that his film was reality, no one believes that. It cannot really be judged fairly in this category. The central premise of an American officer being frustrated with the war effort and going off to create his own private army is clearly fantasy. Would the Army have sent out an assassin? I would not discount that considering what we know about the Phoenix Program. As far as the various vignettes, you cannot take them seriously. Other than the use of speakers to blast Wagner at the village, the helicopter assault is ramped up but realistically depicts the mobility and firepower of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Surfing during an artillery barrage? Come on, dude. C

There are people who claim that “Tunnel Rats” is the most realistic Vietnam War movie. [Insert snarky comment.] They cannot be serious… or sane. There should have been a good movie made about the remarkable men who volunteered to go down into the tunnel complexes, but you don’t put it in the hands of Uwe Boll. If you interviewed all the men who went down into the tunnels, you would find no equivalence to most of the incidents depicted in the film. The fact is that Boll did not care about reality. I doubt he did any research and it is telling that there was no technical adviser for the film. Who does not know that base camps were not located in the middle of the jungle with no fields of fire? Who hires tall actors to portray tunnel rats? F

FINAL SCORE
Apocalypse Now = 31
Tunnel Rats = 25


ANALYSIS

Even though the last two categories were not strong ones for “Apocalypse Now”, it still comfortably won this match-up. I was not familiar with Uwe Boll’s reputation as one of the worst directors until I started researching his film. I have not seen any of his other movies, but most who have believe “Tunnel Rats” is a cut above his usual product. This sounds about right because the movie is entertaining in a brainless way and is not the worst Vietnam War movie ever made. However, Boll versus Coppola – you can’t get more extreme than that! “Apocalypse Now” is a flawed masterpiece and has its detractors, but no one can argue that “Tunnel Rats” deserved to win this matchup.

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