(director: Brian Trenchard-Smith; screenwriters: William Nagle/Tony Johnston; cinematographer: Kevan Lind; editor: Andrew Prowse; music: Paul Schutze; cast: Wings Hauser (Di Nardo), R. Lee Ermey (Hafner), Robert Arevalo (Cao Van), Mark Neely (Murphy), Gary Hershberger (Moran), Albert Popwell (Sgt. Jones), Clyde R. Jones (Coates), Margi Gerard (Flanagan), Richard Kuhlman (Ghost), John Calvin (C.O. Williams), Michael Cruz (Pee Wee, Vietnamese child); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Howard Grigsby/Rod S.M. Confesor; MGM Limited Edition; 1989-Australia)

An intense man’s action marine war movie, that is surprisingly good for all its cliches about war and the marines.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An intense man’s action marine war movie, that is surprisingly good for all its cliches about war and the marines. It’s fictionalized, but is based on a true incident during the Vietnam War. It’s set during the Tet Offensive on January 1968. Aussie director Brian Trenchard-Smith(“Drive Hard”/”Arctic Blast”/”Turkey Shoot”) robustly directs, specializing in getting the battle scenes to be action-packed and startling. It’s written by William Nagle and Tony Johnston. The Philippines subs for Vietnam.

The action takes place just before the Tet Offensive (on the Chinese New Year). The marine platoon, led by the edgy busted gung-ho Corporal Di Nardo (Wings Hauser) and the salty macho career-soldier Sergeant Major Hafner (R. Lee Ermey), comes across the friendly village in An Lap slaughtered, except for a child they name Pee Wee (Michael Cruz) and take him along with them. They also rescue a disorientated soldier who was a prisoner of the Viet Cong. The hard-nose warriors and their platoon retreat by chopper to the remote firebase Gloria. A firebase is a large reinforced perimeter facility used to supply field troops. The marines find the firebase ineptly run by its incompetent and brain-dead commander, Captain Williams (John Calvin), more interested in the Playboy centerfold and getting stoned on a hookah than doing his job. The new arrivals realize they can’t work with him, and arrange for the commander to be injured and taken away in a stretcher to Saigon. The new CO, Sgt. Hafner, professionally prepares his platoon and the men at the firebase for the expected Vietcong attack. Though surrounded and badly outnumbered, they put up a good fight. A zany pilot, from the Air Cavalry, named Moran (Gary Hershberger), gives them air support in his giant chopper and breaks orders to return from the Saigon air base to the firebase in order to supply them. As a result of the Tet Offensive the Americans get the boot from the country, but they still killed 55,000 Vietcong and thereby destroyed them. Hanoi now takes over the war effort.

The low-budget exploitative war drama does well by its powerful action scenes, some of the best I’ve seen in Vietnam War films. It also appropriately show that ‘war is hell’ and how war takes away one’s humanity because of its brutality.

Marine sergeant turned actor, R. Lee Ermey, is in Full Metal Jacket form with his winsome fiery performance.

REVIEWED ON 12/17/2014 GRADE: B+