In light of the three day weekend with a fair number of you still on a form of lockdown, the thought occurred to me there will be a number of war movies on this weekend. I am reminded of the time at CST, where the Army gave us Air Force people a crash course on playing Army for a month prior to my first tour in Iraq where I met MSgt. Daniels (or we’ll just call him that). He was the nicest guy in the world. More on that later.
This is my review of Trejo‘s Cerveza Mexican Lager (Hecho in LA)
We were killing time after chow and somebody put on a war movie. Most war movies are okay but when they get them wrong, they really get them wrong. Here’s a rundown of some that are just godawful and why:
Somehow they made a film about, arguably the most infamous attack on America into a romantic comedy. Why a comedy? Because out of a three and a half hour movie, this is a joke for three hours of it. To its credit, there a few stories where they dramatize actual heroic events from the battle, mostly the ten minutes Cuba Gooding Jr. was on screen. Alex Baldwin portrays Jimmy Doolittle in such a cringey and wooden manner, the puppet that played him on Team America would be preferable. This film relies far too heavily on Kate Beckingsale in grandma’s swimsuit to cover up its failures as a war movie.
John Wayne plays John Wayne’s ego in every John Wayne movie. Prove me wrong.
Other problems include it obviously being propaganda designed to change perceptions of the Vietnam War. Obvious how? The Vietnamese were portrayed as inhuman savages while Special Forces acted out of pure benevolence. Historical inconsistencies such as George Takei playing an ex-Viet Minh(who were Communist guerrillas during WW2, BTW) torturing captured Viet Cong did not help either.
This is a western movie set in Vietnam without any redeeming qualities found in westerns. The base is called “Dodge City”, because “the Alamo” was too obvious, apparently. They called the Vietnamese countryside “Indian Country”, and even had a cavalry charge.
John Wayne was in his 60’s when this movie was filmed and in one scene shouldered an M-16 upside down.
The Thin Red Line/Saving Private Ryan
Private Ryan was an expertly shot, choreographed, and executed film with an all-star cast playing relatable characters of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances. Tom Hanks delivers his customary “aw shucks” performance seen in films such as Toy Story, Joe vs. the Volcano, and Turner and Hooch. Except this time he had Matt Damon to bail him out instead of an adorable French Mastiff. The storyline itself required the extremely realistic intro at Omaha Beach in order to suspend disbelief of the highly unlikely plot. Sending all those guys just to find one man? Thats hard enough to do, even today. In the end the plot was predictable, as was the dialogue, waxing poetic to manipulate the emotions of the audience. Matt Damon didn’t earn anything. They introduced “shaky cam” which anybody thats ever seen a Jason Bourne movie loves to hate.
People also forget The Thin Red Line came out around the same time, and was also nominated for Oscars. This one however, is set in the Pacific theater, and stars Sean Penn. There is no redeeming factor to giving that man a job.
Apocalypse Now Redux
It was fine the first time, assholes.
Back to Msgt. Daniels…who was the nicest guy in the world. A bit on the older side of things as far as the military goes but not surprising given he was a reservist from a REDHORSE unit in Florida. He happened to be Pavements/Heavy Equipment (commonly called “dirt boys), not that his AFSC mattered at the time. A few guys were killing time in the barracks after chow by watching Jarhead. The ”climax” of movie is set at a Kuwaiti airfield where a sniper team is assigned to kill a single Iraqi general in a building on the other side of the airfield. They are interrupted by an officer, seemingly one of a dozen antagonists, trying to get them on the radio to stand down. The general was killed in an airstrike on the field and the scene ends with both Marines being emotionally distraught from training for years only to find out the Air Force will win the war for them. “We’re dialed in Sir, please just let us kill him!?” He says it doesn’t matter the guy is dead anyways and the general dies in an enormous fireball which happens to destroy the airfield in the process…
”SO THATS THE SON OF A BITCH THAT MADE ME STAY IN KUWAIT FOR FOUR MORE MONTHS? FUCK THAT GUY.”
We all turned and saw MSgt Daniels, confused because we never heard him curse before.
The problem I have with this movie like nearly every Vet my age, is I served with others who happened to be old enough to corroborate the events in the movie. Many of the stories portrayed in the movie, and the book, often criticize Tony Swofford for exaggerating his experiences. In some cases people called him a liar, specifically with regard to how he portrayed others within his unit. While I am inclined to believe there are stories that are true but exaggerated based on MSgt Daniels being stuck in the desert repairing that airfield, we don’t really know where the truth ends and fiction begins. For example, stories such as the scene with the Deerhunter tape. This is a myth that comes up from time to time on the internet that supposedly began in Panama, that has multiple variations, including a British version. Saying he saw the actual tape is hard to believe because there are so many versions of the story that popped up in the 80’s.
Most of the reason people hate this book and movies (there are sequels) can be summarized here in the negative Amazon reviews of his book: its a memoir of a narcissistic clown that complained for over 200 pages about how much he hated the Marines because everyone he met rightly concluded he was a shitbird that got lucky he published a book critical of the military in the middle of an unpopular war about his experiences in a similar war. If there is anything we learned from Full Metal Jacket, its entirely possible to make a movie with an antiwar message without insulting everyone along the way. He essentially rode the Salon crowd’s coattails to riches. Otherwise, it has a few good one-liners.
If the guy on the can looks familiar it is because Danny Trejo has played multiple bit roles as a Mexican tough guy in such films as Desperado, Machete, and Spy Kids. He has a knack for capitalizing on his celebrity. This is essentially Modelo, without the noticeable adjuncts, which is not a terrible thing and is actually pretty good. Happy Memorial Day, and please don’t thank me for my service… Trejo‘s Cerveza Mexican Lager (Hecho in LA) 3.0/5.