TIGERLAND(director: Joel Schumacher; screenwriters: Ross Klavan/Michael McGruther; cinematographer: Matthew J. Libatique; editor: Mark Stevens; cast: Colin Farrell (Bozz), Matthew Davis (Paxton), Clifton Collins Jr. (Miter), Thomas Guiry (Cantwell), Shea Whigham (Wilson), Russell Richardson (Johnson), Nick Searcy (Captain Saunders); Runtime: 109; 20th Century Fox; 2000)
“The movie moves along as if it were on a forced march to Hanoi.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A war film set inside a Southern boot-camp during the Vietnam War era. Joel Schumacher’s modestly budgeted gritty looking war melodrama had nothing relevant to say. It covered familiar territory said before in countless other Vietnam War films. The clichéd hero and the formulaic story never caught my fancy, no matter how much the director tried to make things happen. It’s shot in the style of the first half of Full Metal Jacket, but without the same impact.
It’s the tale of a soldier who won’t conform to the Army and by the film’s end proves he’s not a bad guy and can also be an excellent soldier if he wants to. In his stance as a rebel leader, he helps many of the recruits in ways the hypocritical Army trainers can’t. There were just no surprises forthcoming, as this subplot seemed to be marking time until it shows him as a leader and he proves himself heroic while back in the fold.
I think that Schumacher thinks because he has no stars and shot this one in a grainy 16-millimeter with a jumpy hand-held camera and with mostly natural light in Dogme 95 style, that he caught something cinema vérité. But what goes with Schumacher wherever he goes, is a lot of corn. This film is just as weak in storyline as was his big commercial flick Batman.
What this film has going for it are some good shots of the swampland in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and some good performances. The star is Colin Farrell, a young Irish actor, who is able to speak convincingly with a Texas twang and be charismatic as the rebel soldier with the attitude problem.
The movie tracks a Vietnam-bound platoon as its members progress from their eight-week basic training course to their ninth week of training at a stopover site called Tigerland; after that week they will ship out to ‘Nam. Tigerland is a hellhole that comes with a swamp replica of ‘Nam, and is known by the Army men as “the second worst place on earth.” The officers refer to it as “the stateside province of Vietnam.”
Raymond Bozz (Farrell) is a cocky, troublemaking private not conforming to the strict discipline his drill instructors expect in the war years of 1971. He and his fellow recruits are all heading for Vietnam after they complete their training and are tired of being constantly reminded that this training will save their life.
The movie seems phony almost immediately as Bozz and Paxton (Matthew Davis), an opponent of the war who enlisted for the experience, pick up a couple of gals in a topless bar and take them to a cheap hotel for some quick sex. As soon as they’re done with the sex, the G.I.’s start to philosophize and the idealistic Paxton tells of his desire to write a great war novel. The women split as soon as the men start chatting and the two are soon back in camp to face their dauntless company commander, Captain Saunders, and all their drill instructors who go through the gruff routines of preparing the men to kill.
Bozz knows all the angles in the Army base’ bureaucratic procedures and uses his knowledge to help his fellow soldiers beat the system, as he advises some on how to get out of the service. The cadre can’t wait to graduate this smart-ass from boot camp and get his ass into Vietnam.
The movie moves along as if it were on a forced march to Hanoi. There’s also some liberal claptrap thrown into the storyline, which is unconvincingly done about a racist sociopath. In a Deep South boot-camp, strangely enough, he’s the only racist to be found and the only coward.
Tigerland heads towards its less than ‘Big Bang’ finale with the same forced messages about war that could not only chase sluts out of a hotel room, but drive viewers to the theater’s lobby faster than a speeding bullet. It’s a movie all about male-bonding, how the hipster white dude Bozz can rap with the black dudes who are naturally hip and sure know how to sing, and of how beautiful all the men look when they have a splatch of dirt on their faces. The director must receive credit for at least getting together a good cast, though I would have loved to see this one directed by Ed Wood Jr. and acted by his ensemble cast.
REVIEWED ON 10/8/2001 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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