Monday, 28 July 2014

The Firing Line (1988)

The film begins with a group of guerillas being attacked by overwhelming forces and all but annihilated.  Only one female guerilla survives to escape back to their base, while the commander of the unit and a second woman are captured alive.

That might sound like a pretty exciting way to kick things off, but there's literally no dialogue or anything else to give context to the scenes of nameless extras running through trees and dying when there's an explosion nearby them.  Even the fact that they are guerillas has to be inferred from their mismatched outfits, mixture of male and female troops, and lack of heavy equipment.

Then the dialog starts and people try to act, and you wish they'd let you infer the whole movie.

In any case, the rebel leader is brought before the American advisor who orchestrated the attack.  Said American is a stand up guy, of course.  But as soon as he is gone the authorities murder the rebel leader and then rape and murder the other captive.  Surprise!  The government is evil!

Well, duh.  It's the 80s and they have US backing.  Being anti-communist was much more important than not being brutal thug, especially in Central America, where this appears to me.  Google Rios Montt some time, if you doubt me, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Enjoying some R&R and flirting with an allegedly beautiful woman, Our Hero runs into a cynical journalist who sneers at the suggestion the rebel will get a fair trial, what with him being dead and all.  Our Hero ditches the woman and sets out to discover if this is true, and soon finds himself on the wrong side of the government he was just helping.

His escape ends up encompassing his earlier date for not every well-explained reasons, and the two of them end up in the jungle where they naturally hook up with the guerillas and engage in a series of poorly staged battles and one of the most perfunctory romances I have ever seen on screen (and I have seen a lot of perfunctory romances, let me tell you).

If you imagine a Schwarzenegger film from the same period, but with a lead who has 5% of the charisma and a script that's about 10% as good, you've pretty much got this film.  The main entertainment value comes from the frankly atrocious editing.  Hint to the film-makers: if you choose to show a character's face while we can hear them talking, you should choose a shot where their lips are moving.

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