2 out of 5 stars
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John Woo is the king of the action movie (Face/Off, M:I-2), so putting him at the helm of a big WWII flick must have seemed like an inspired idea. And it might have been, if the script was more than Pearl Harbor II. Joe (Cage) is a Marine with emotional and physical scars who sneaks his way back into active service in the Pacific and is assigned to guard a Navajo codebreaker, Ben (Beach), protecting the code itself at all costs. (The code is based on the Navajo language, which the Japanese could never crack.) Despite trying to maintain professional distance, Joe can't help but befriend the vastly likeable Ben, which makes the climactic decision all the more difficult. Especially as the battle for the island of Saipan heats up.

Excessive, tongue-in-cheek action has no place in a World War II film. And Woo simply seems lost in all the emotional claptrap, war movie cliches, cornball dialog and mumbo jumbo about bravery and patriotism. He does fill the film with enormous, lyrical explosions and brutal, incessant gun battles. But the story's melodrama gets lost in between. A strange side plot involving a nurse (O'Connor) seems pasted in to add the only female touch, as do all the fellow soldiers. At least they have the basic personalities, even if they're stock war movie figures. All of this adds up to a fairly well-made yet utterly uninvolving trudge, trivialising a genuinely gripping moment in history. Did someone say Pearl Harbor? And as it progresses you get the nagging feeling that it's basically just a Nicolas Cage vanity project gone horribly wrong.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Jun.02

dir John Woo
scr John Rice, Joe Batteer
with Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Roger Willie, Peter Stormare, Mark Ruffalo, Noah Emmerich, Frances O'Connor, Jason Isaacs, Brian Van Holt, Martin Henderson, William Morts
release US 14.Jun.02; UK 30.Aug.02
02/US 2h14

Peer pressure. Ben (Beach) faces up to racism in the ranks

cage slater ruffalo oconnor
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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall