1 out of 5 stars
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Here's yet another solidly made Hollywood thriller that has absolutely no substance to it ... and virtually no plot either. It tries to convince us that it's about something terribly interesting, but turns out to be a gigantic puff of slickly produced smoke. When a mission in Panama goes horribly wrong, renegade US Ranger Tom Hardy (Travolta) is called in to get to the bottom of it, much to the annoyance of Army investigator Julia Osborne (Nielsen). But they work together interviewing the survivors (Van Holt and Ribisi), as well as the base commander (Daly) and a local doctor (Connick). But everyone gives conflicting tales about how the vile Sergeant West (Jackson) was killed. Sure, murder is basic, but will they ever get to the bottom of this story?

Not really, no. This film is all smoke and mirrors, red herrings and unreliable memories. And when in the end we finally get to the bottom of it, we realise that the filmmakers are just paying with us all along. There is no story here. Surely Vanderbilt's script must have originally been more substantial to attract this talented cast and crew. They all do adept work; McTiernan keeps it looking interesting, with lots of gunfire, helicopters and incessant wind and rain (there's a hurricane involved) so everything is noisy and wet ... and increasingly blood-soaked. But there's never even the slightest attempt to play on the Rashomon-like conflicting accounts idea, and the overcomplicated plot falls to pieces on even the slightest examination. It just makes no sense at all when you finally get the last puzzle piece. And they even have the nerve to add witty romantic banter between Travolta and Nielsen, who are very good, considering how terrible the rest of the film is.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Apr.03

dir John McTiernan
scr James Vanderbilt
with John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L Jackson, Timothy Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, Harry Connick Jr, Taye Diggs, Dash Mihok, Roselyn Sanchez, Cristian de la Fuente, Steven Maye
release US 28.Mar.03; UK 20.Jun.03
03/US 1h38

Seductive. Tom Hardy (Travolta) lures deep secrets out of his interviewee ... but can he trust him?

travolta nielsen jackson
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall