Sunday, March 23, 2014



If you are new to the tournament, go to the opening post.

ACTING“The Boys in Company C” is an ensemble movie with a B-list cast of actors who probably thought they would become household names. Dream big, baby. The movie is dominated in the first 37 minutes by R. Lee Ermey as the Drill Sergeant in charge of training a motley crew of stock characters. Since the film was largely forgotten when it came out (including by Stanley Kubrick), people think Ermey was discovered for “Full Metal Jacket”. He is doing the same “acting” in this film. He is excellent, of course. However, the rest of the actors are embarrassingly bad. You would think it was their first movie. Several of the performances are grating, especially Andrew Stevens as Pike and Michael Lembeck (son of Harvey from “Stalag 17”) who plays the caricatured Italian wise-guy from Brooklyn. Argggh! D

“Casualties of War” has a much better cast. Michael J. Fox does an outstanding job playing the naïve, moralistic Eriksson. John C. Reilly (his first film), Don Patrick Harvey (playing his usual typecast bad guy), and John Leguizama (his second role) are solid. Thuy Thu Le is remarkable as the doomed Oanh (it was her only acting credit). Plus we get the bonus of Dale Dye in a fiery take on ass-covering brass. The only problem is the scene-chewing of Sean Penn as Sgt. Meserve. The performance has been praised, but not by me. His hammy portrayal of the villain is distracting. His emoting of faux grunt slang is the worst thing about the movie. Imagine a movie where he is the weak link in a cast with three comedians in their first substantial dramatic roles. A


Boys in Company C = 6
Casualties of War = 9


“The Boys in Company C” covers a heterogeneous unit from boot camp to vignettes in Vietnam culminating in a soccer match. The plot is cliché-ridden and predictable. The characters are all stereotypes (the hippie, the ghetto drug dealer, the writer, the athlete, the ladies’ man). It’s painful to watch bad actors playing time-worn characters. The incidents in the movie are progressively ridiculous, culminating in the egregious soccer match. Every scene in the film has been done better in other films. F

“Casualties of War” is based on a true incident involving the rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl by a long range patrol. One member (Fox’s Eriksson) did not participate and was instrumental in bringing on a court-martial. It is a powerful tale well told. The movie is actually weakest in the set-up which attempts to establish the nature of the war and is too truncated in the trial phase, but the mission is the centerpiece and is strong. The theme of war’s corrupting influence and the moral that you must not compromise your principles are advanced efficiently. B


Boys in Company C = 12
Casualties of War = 17


“Boys” is sometimes lauded for being one of the better Vietnam War movies and praised for its realism in reflecting the soldier experience. The combat scenes have some fair action, but they are Hollywood’s idea of Vietnam combat. We get the convoy ambush, patrol ambush, and the search and destroy mission. Lots of blanks are fired (from M-16s with banana clips) and there are plenty of explosions. All the unused ordnance is literally thrown in at the end to tack on a war is terrible theme. C

“Casualties” is not designed to be a combat movie and it shows. This is De Palma’s only war movie and he does not stage combat well. In the opening scene (which is a night ambush) Eriksson is sent out by himself to lock down a flank with a grenade launcher in the thick foliage! (Next time we see him he has a M-16. Good editing!) This is all to set up a ridiculous tunnel episode used for Meserve to save Eriksson’s life. (This is followed by Merserve referring to the ambush as a “mad f****** minute” – one of several of the inaccurate uses of slang in the movie.) The show piece of the latter half of the film is the assault on a VC base camp. The five man squad wipe out a much larger enemy force with the help of naval and air support. In the midst of the bells and whistles, we get a wrenching death. C


Boys in Company C = 18
Casualties of War = 24


“Boys” is illogical and laughable. Once we get to Vietnam, the movie degenerates into a series of vignettes that are all ridiculous. A soldier steps on a mine in a rice paddy. A character plans to send dope back to the States in body bags. A general’s trailer is blown up with a claymore. And don’t get me started on the soccer game. These guys (who have never played soccer and do not practice) are competitive against a talented Vietnamese squad. Hey, American audience, soccer is so easy anyone can play it! D

“Casualties” is a pretty accurate rendition of the book it is based on. I have read the book so I can vouch for the realism of the film. The only major revision is with the attack on the base camp. No surprise that in reality the body count was much lower in reality. And no war-mongering Americans met ironic deaths in the process. Also, I would hazard that the complete lack of noise discipline for a long range patrol is a bit off. Sadly, the atrocity is not only factual, but not unrealistic. As far as Michael J. Fox playing a soldier, I won’t get into that. B


Boys in Company C = 24
Casualties of War = 32


“Boys” is highly thought of in some circles. It was the first significant post-war movie. It did poorly at the box office and some blame this on Americans not being ready for this type of film. And yet, the very next year marked the boom in Vietnam War films – starting with “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now”. Obviously it did not flop because of the timing. It did poorly because it sucks. Compare it to “Go Tell the Spartans” (which came out the next year). “Casualties” is superior in every way and it is not an outstanding movie. It is significant and has a worthy cause. It also did not do well financially which proves that the public was not ready for dirty laundry as much as it did not want to see war as a farce.

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