(director/writer: Steve Luke; cinematographer: Joseph Loeffler; editor: Shaun O’Connell; music: Harrison Mountain; cast: Bates Wilder (Captain William Rivers), Hiram A. Murray (Pvt. John Cain), Ron Perlman (General Pershing), Billy Zane (Colonel Jack Morrison), Aaron Courteau (Sgt. Allistor Richardson), Edgar Damatian (Private Cardinni), Judah McFadden (Pinchelli), Andrew Stecker (Corporal Anson Kirby); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Steven Luke, Andre Relis; Saban Films 2019)

“Lobs more cinema war cliches than grenades.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut effort as a director by Steve Luke is at best only lukewarm. The well-intentioned but inadequately written low-budget WW I thriller about racism lobs more cinema war cliches than grenades. It’s set during the last days of World War I (around the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918), when a regiment of African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” are trapped in the French hills behind enemy lines. After one of the black soldiers Pvt. John Cain (Hiram A. Murray) escapes, he’s ordered by the top commander, General Pershing (Ron Perlman), to join an elite group of white troops, led by Captain Rivers (Bates Wilder), to rescue any of the black survivors. Though Rivers is reluctant to lead the mission, he puts aside his doubts and soldiers on.

It was filmed in northern Minnesota, which subs for the French Argonne Forest only in the minds of the filmmakers.

Racism runs rampant in Rivers’ whites only unit, who question why they should risk their lives to rescue blacks. The growing respect between Rivers and Private Cain brings about some shameful racist scenes. But it settles into the white soldiers putting aside their differences and working with the black soldier for the good of the mission. In too many cringe-worthy scenes, we observe how the whites become praiseworthy just for acting decent.

Billy Zane, the only other known actor in the film besides Perlman, plays a fictional top aid to the general.

Because of the inadequate budget, the battles of the Americans fighting their way through the German lines never seems real. The war film is lacking in too many things that are  necessary to make it worth seeing, as its execution and acting are not up to speed. Though Luke might be a history buff and thinks he has something to say, he doesn’t seem to have the skills to make this film (especially without ample resources).


REVIEWED ON 12/15/2019  GRADE: D