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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.79%
Worth A Look36.26%
Average: 21.98%
Pretty Bad: 20.88%
Total Crap: 12.09%

6 reviews, 55 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Action sequence A, Dialogue Scene B: Lather, rinse, repeat"
2 stars

Yet another movie lesson we don't need: 'How Genres Recycle' The painful deluge of sex comedies that's washed through the theaters over the past two years can be directly attributed to the popularity of American Pie. The new-wave slasher renaissance of 2000 was the direct result of Wes Craven's Scream. Currently, Hollywood is in a 'war-movie' mood, and (thanks to the much-discussed Act I of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan) the mantra seems to be: Gore is Good.

Windtalkers is one of those utterly predictable and ultimately shallow "war flicks" that tries to put an important face on all the carnage, yet 85% of the movie consists of blood for shock value and explosions for the "gee whiz" factor. Not since the 1985 Oscar-winner Missing in Action 2: The Beginning have I seen this many ridiculous "grenade gags". You know the drill: hero throws grenade, grenade explodes, several enemies go hurtling through the air like baseballs. That the Chuck Norris "grenade gag" occurs about 7 times during Windtalkers is a good indication of how serious-minded the film is.

Nicolas Cage (opting to work in blank zombie mode this time out) plays Sgt. Joe Enders, an commander who has recently lost his entire platoon (it was his fault, of course) to a wide array of colorful deaths. After stewing about with a bum ear at the local vet's hospital, Enders is given a new assignment; he's to be paired up with a Native American 'codetalker' who will be able to relay important coordinates and recipes without them pesky Japanese listening in. Enders is ordered to protect codetalker Yahzee at all costs...unless of course they're both which case Enders would be forced to protect the code (ie - kill Yahzee) in overtly dramatic fashion.

Nothing sums up a good war epic like a plot than can be described in one sentence, and Windtalkers nails that one plot device into the blood-soaked ground. It's obvious that by adding the whole 'noble savage' and 'cure racism through warfare' themes, the filmmakers were hoping to add a little meat to this essentially insubstantial affair, but the "code" stuff is given perhaps 20 minutes screen time, and the rest of what's on display isn't exactly anything to hoot and holler for.

When you say a film has "lots of action", that's almost always a compliment. But in the case of Windtalkers, the numerous battle sequences are choppy, uninvolving, and more than a little derivative. Aside from the aforementioned grenade gag, Windtalkers hosts a laundry list of war flick cliches that should have been retired along with Ronald Reagan. If I told you there was one racist soldier who refuses to accept the Navajo soldiers, would that stun you? Or would you make the next logical connection - that the racist soldier would soon be on the receiving end of some good ol' Navajo heroics. This same exact plot hook is used in every war movie! Do they really think moviegoers sitting through Windtalkers haven't seen The Patriot or Glory?

I digress. Lazy screenwriting is as predictable as tax season, and about as enjoyable. To be completely honest, I find a screenplay littered with one yawning cliche after another an insult to my intelligence, so the 'other stuff' better be pretty damn good.

In this case, the 'other stuff' is nearly as bad. Though Windtalkers certainly has a copious amount of battleground explosions and flying bullets, very few of these sequences actually pound your pulse. There's the indefinable little internal oomph you get when you're watching a great action sequence, and I didn't get that sensation once during Windtalkers. The action scenes seem too polished, too rote, and way too overbaked. Much like in the vastly superior Black Hawk Down, the unending sea of enemies pour forth from the jungle like so many Romero zombies. Our soldiers plow right through them and more pop up.

The performances are uniformly acceptable, with only Cage's incessant glower a consistent bore. Adam Beach (Mystery Alaska) plays the dimensionless Yahzee with all the charm he can muster, but the character is written to be a Navajo Superman Saint, so he doesn't have too many shades to work with. Christian Slater (Heathers) adds some color as another 'code protector', while Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) shows up just just long enough to make you wish he had more scenes. Likable character actors Peter Stormare, Mark Ruffalo and Noah Emmerich get to put on camoflague and play War with the big boys. Good for them.

I don't know why anyone thought John Woo was the right guy for a wartime action drama, but it's clear that Woo works best indoors...and in Hong Kong. His American films (Face/Off, Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible 2) have all been no better than 'interesting failures', despite what the Box-Office Gods may have to say. (OK, I really dug Face/Off, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good film.) The director's affinity for 'operatic carnage' is given free reign over these WWII battlefields, yet each successive skirmish is as tiresome and paint-by-numberesque as the one before.

A couple of cool jolts and a few tips of the hat to cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball save this one from being a total disaster. Windtalkers is strictly a 'going-through-the-motions' motion picture product, one that's entirely beholden to earlier (and infinitely better) war films.

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originally posted: 06/15/02 16:20:50
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good action thats about it 3 stars
8/05/13 SniperSarge I enjoyed the movie 4 stars
11/29/07 Bnorm Shameful piece of dookie. Nic Cage is in no way bad ass. At all. 1 stars
9/27/07 Sugarfoot John Woo has lost it, period. See A Bullet In The Head over this junk 1 stars
9/18/07 Fast Cow i love this movie. natives rule....yay adam beach..... 5 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Another film where the hero stands in plain sight killing millions of baddies. 3 stars
4/13/07 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good. 4 stars
3/01/07 Mouse it sucks 1 stars
7/29/06 arvi excellent movie 5 stars
5/19/06 drydock54321 not the best. but ok 3 stars
11/21/05 Quigley the movie would have better if it wasn't so poorly cast. the navajos were the best 3 stars
10/03/05 Hawaiian Shoot me if I ever want to see another John Woo film again! Total waste of a great story 1 stars
8/24/05 ES Here's your 1st hint- directed by John Woo, 2nd- starring Nic Cage 1 stars
2/15/05 R.W. Welch May have the highest body count ever. A few good scenes. 3 stars
2/04/05 Dan Pretty Good actually, kind of hollywoodish, but what do you expect in a Woo Film? 4 stars
1/17/05 Landshark Adam Beach & Roger Willie characters not given development, just orders...*YAWN* 2 stars
12/10/04 Steve Newman Disappointed that the "Windtalker" story was not enhanced. War scenes great 4 stars
8/24/04 albert very good woo 4 stars
7/01/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. Not a bad flick... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/10/04 Derek Denfeld I loved the movie. the graphics were soo awesome. i think yazee was the best character 5 stars
1/11/04 The Wizard of Flix Cage thinking Oscar again but only succeeding in presenting himself as Hamlet in a High S 2 stars
11/30/03 john inept! John Woo made his good movies in Hong Kong 1 stars
11/29/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) It's OK, but the war scenes are never very powerful. Not up to John Woo par. 3 stars
6/26/03 cochese dissapointingly horrible. 1 stars
6/26/03 J Really cool! 4 stars
6/04/03 Picky critic Great idea for a movie, but everything-especially the fighting scenes--seems very contrived 1 stars
6/04/03 liz we watched it in class and one girl kept on freking 5 stars
6/03/03 Charles Tatum Woo overdirects a corny underwritten script 2 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink clichd and Cage's bad. But Woo sometimes excites with his orchestra of violence 3 stars
4/24/03 Andrew Carden Underrated, Misunderstood Drama With Fantastic Performances. 5 stars
4/08/03 Vince kickass explosions and people getting fucked up. no story. 4 stars
2/20/03 Ian Jesus. So poor I could weep. 1 stars
12/23/02 Ryback Good, but not great, liked the music and slow motion 4 stars
11/10/02 Bob Nesbitt Very predictable-seen the same plot in hundreds of war films. 3 stars
10/22/02 cinkcool Good. 4 stars
9/25/02 Carly All Woo knows how to do is blow up things. How about talking about the Windtalkers more. 2 stars
8/30/02 Edith the Maid and Meredith the Mermaid Improtant story, sloppily told 4 stars
8/29/02 Dean expected sooo much more. My mistake 1 stars
8/28/02 viking Better than Pearl Harbour, but a long way behind Saving Private Ryan 3 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Another great John Woo movie. 4 stars
8/19/02 stryper rocks Too many gasoline-enhanced explosions. How about developing the Navajo characters more? 3 stars
8/17/02 brainiac adam beach & george willie great; war gore, slater's harmonica & oconnor's role bad... 2 stars
7/05/02 malcolm once again, Woo shows American filmmakers how it's done 4 stars
6/21/02 spaceworm Too loud to hear any talking; lots of wind, where a gentle breeze would do. 3 stars
6/19/02 thejames not the most complex plot but one of the more ENTERTAINING ww2 movies in recent years. 4 stars
6/18/02 Charles Goin Not your typical war movie and that point seems to have been missed by far too many. 5 stars
6/17/02 Todd A slap in the face of all WW2 vets. 2 stars
6/17/02 Waste of money A one dimensional, cliche ridden, corny crapfest! 1 stars
6/17/02 "Yes the shit." A very poor movie. Action sequences sometimes makes no sense. What a waste. 2 stars
6/17/02 Anarchy Azmi nothing but a lot of japanese dying everywhere 3 stars
6/15/02 Nick2k i liked it...but i'm getting bored with war flicks, mr. & mrs. hollywood.... 4 stars
6/13/02 S M I could not watch a lot of this movie because of the graphic violence. I was horrified to 3 stars
6/12/02 Crystrial Murphy I loved the Native actors. The action graphics were extremely surprising. 4 stars
6/07/02 Jaydeep I love most John Woo flicks, but this one really disappointed me. 3 stars
6/07/02 Kris Bates Masterpiece 5 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006



Directed by
  John Woo

Written by
  John Rice
  Joe Batteer

  Nicolas Cage
  Kevin Cooney
  Noah Emmerich
  Christian Slater
  Peter Stormare
  Adam Beach

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