features Owen Wilson running. He runs through the woods. He runs from
the enemy. He runs through a minefield. He runs through the snow. If
there were any more running in this picture I'd guess it was another
The plot involves
a standard-issue Navy pilot loose cannon, Chris "Longhorn" Burnett (Wilson),
who is stranded in Bosnia (as one might guess from the title) behind
enemy lines. During a Christmas recon mission, Burnett and his pilot
stray off course and take pictures of something important. At one point
it's military positions and at another it's mass graves, but this is
least of the film's problems. Their plane is shot down and Burnett does
the aforementioned running. Back on the aircraft carrier his commanding
officer (Gene Hackman) grimaces and bears the strain of command.
All of it is just
silly. Wilson comports himself well as always, but then again he emerged
fairly unscathed from The Haunting and Anaconda. Hackman,
on the other hand, turns in one of the boat-payment performances he's
been doing for so long that it becomes surprising when he handles something
like Heist well. Joaquim De Almeida (Desperado) and Vladimir
Maskov (15 Minutes) play the villains for Hackman and Wilson
respectively. Both do their jobs well but it's no use.
Anything they do
right is lost in the hamfisted direction of first-timer John Moore.
Mainly a commercial director, Moore has no clue how to stay interested
in anything for more than thirty seconds. The shiny SUV and stylish
jogging suits look oh-so-enticing, but the action is muddled and confusing.
We see Wilson running through a forest and soldiers tromping through
the woods looking for him, but there is no indication as to how close
they are. Conversations occur while the camera spins around two characters
at a dizzying speed. The camera never sits still.
In one scene, Burnett
darts about an abandoned factory compound alone and undetected, but
the camera follows him in a hand-held documentary style, giving the
impression that he is being watched. With this kind of wrongheaded thinking
from the director, even potentially interesting sequences have no tension.
When Burnett hides from his pursuers in a mass grave, instead of putting
the audience down in the corpses and muck while the enemy soldiers stick
bayonets perilously close to our hero's face, we see the scene on a
thermal satellite picture, so it looks like an Atari 2600 game.
The only interesting
part of the film comes too late to save it. Burnett is rescued by some
Bosnian rednecks (I'm serious). Of course, if you know anything about
rednecks you know that their children rebel by listening to gangsta
rap. Just such a redneck scion befriends Burnett over a conversation
about Ice Cube and gun calibers. Daniel Margolius, who plays this kid,
is great. He's what would have happened to Silent Bob's buddy Jay if
he'd grown up in the midst of insane political turmoil rather than Jersey.
Even this little
glimmer of interest is squelched by a return to the regularly scheduled
action mess. Wilson runs around and the bad guys shoot at him. Yes,
if the bad guys could actually shoot straight the movie would be over
too early, but these guys are a joke. They miss with machine guns and
rifles and tanks. At one point Burnett even charges back into enemy
fire and still escapes with only the scratch he got when he punched
out at the start of the film.
I will readily
admit I know very few details of any kind about the Bosnian situation
but after this film I think I know less. I learned that conflict is
between guys in uniforms who talk in subtitles and are bad, and guys
who dress like Americans, speak almost flawless English and love American
popular culture. Call me a cynic, but this is too simple even for an
American action picture.
Overall what could
have been a mediocre action thriller becomes a wretched picture with
some guns and a whole lot of running.
What's It Worth?