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Awesome: 6.98%
Worth A Look: 16.28%
Pretty Bad: 25.58%
Total Crap: 23.26%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Hart's War
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by Erik Childress

"The Great Escape From Stalag 17 Burning"
2 stars

If John Nash became a film director, he might be Gregory Hoblit. Since honing his crafts in the world of television crime (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law), Hoblit has churned out feature film after film that begin with interesting ideas and end in a low concept waste bin. After Primal Fear and Fallen, Hoblit directed the overrated Frequency, which started as a fascinating sci-fi tale about a father and son being able to communicate through radio signals 30 years apart and was twisted into a by-the-numbers serial killer hunt. So, here Hoblit is again with Hart’s War, which opens as promising as any war/adventure film you’ll ever see and dissolves into a routine courtroom drama, better suited for a movie titled “Glory: A Soldier’s Story.”

Colin Farrell, one of the most least interesting “handsome next new thing” actors to come along the pike, stars as Lt. George W….I mean Tom Hart, a soldier who has avoided the battlefield thanks to his daddy, the senator. When he volunteers to give a Captain a lift, he is hoodwinked by some Germans posing as American soldiers and is interrogated into giving up the locations of U.S. fuel pumps. Hart has no qualms about using his mouth prettier than a canary whore.

Transferred on a long, cold ride (and walk) to prison camp Stalag 6, we’ll soon discover that it has a few things in common with its distant cousin, eleven doors down. In charge of the troops on our side is Colonel William McNamara (Bruce Willis), who welcomes Hart into the community and gives him ranking officer privilege when he sticks him in enlisted quarters.

McNamara defends America by telling ranking German officer that we don’t make blatant classifications about others the way that Nazis have shown. Those words are tested with the arrival of two black fighter pilots (Terrence Howard & Vicellous Shannon). Also placed in the barracks of the lower rank and file, they are subject to an unending string of racist remarks from the mouths of the soldiers, most notably the once friendly and accommodating Bedford (Cole Hauser, evidently playing the grandfather to his collegiate white supremacist in "Higher Learning".)

So what starts out as an action-packed, bullets flying, explosions exploding whale of a war/adventure film, that audiences will likely be expecting from the “Great Escape”-like previews, becomes a ham-fisted been there/done that study of racism. Continuing the dyslexic trend of Bill Murray’s training speech in “Stripes”, its once again the white guys helping the black guys. In this case it also happens to be the most treasonous paleface not wearing a Swastika in the whole camp.

Colin Farrell somehow broke out through the praise of reviews for his star turn in Joel Schumacher’s little-seen Vietnam tale, “Tigerland”. Since then he polluted the screen in his WB interpretation of Jesse James in last year’s “American Outlaws” and Farrell has now cemented his status in my eyes as the blandest, untalented pretty boy since Freddie Prinze Jr. His line readings are so unnatural and forced, as if he thinks his handsome-ness and perfectly trimmed hair will hypnotize us to hang on his every word. Playing a character like Tom Hart does nothing to hammer home charisma points.


Not only does Hart quickly give up the locations for our fuel pumps and is never once taken to task for it, but a key decision that seems like a redemption nearly gets 35 prisoners killed. I haven’t felt this sympathetic for a character of Hart’s stature since I first heard of Talibanian John Walker. And are we tired yet of Bruce Willis playing the martyr in every film? By the end of every film, Bruce seems so bored and perhaps can’t believe he’s chosen yet another crappy project, that he’s looking to exit it anyway he can.


Film previews have been taking increasingly (and deservingly) more heat over the years for giving too much away. Hart’s War actually gives away what turns out to be a major plot twist AND misleads the audience into thinking Bruce is going to be leading a revolt Braveheart-style while jumping barbwire fences on Zed’s chopper. This is not Hoblit’s fault, but the impropriety of the marketing crew who have only created further damage to an already mediocre story.

OK, so Hoblit didn’t write it either. The story is based on a novel by John Katzenbach (Just Cause, The Mean Season) and adapted by (yes, full name) Billy Ray (Volcano, Color of Night) and Terry George (In the Name of the Father) and if I were Hoblit, I would have stayed clear of the project altogether. Then again, maybe he believed he could actually convince audiences that white POW’s in WWII actually were unified in hating someone more than their Nazi captives – black people.

It’s naïve to think that there wasn’t some misdirected hatred in the era before the Civil Rights movement, but is there something inherently interesting about prison camp courtroom tactics. Do we need to hear another increase-the-music speech (especially during this period in history) about how a black man was mistreated in Alabama? Some movies have a point. Others simply tell a story. Great ones are able to successfully mesh the two. I have no idea what Hoblit was going for with Hart’s War, but its pretty insufferable to sit through a pointless story that isn’t nearly as interesting as an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.

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originally posted: 02/15/02 16:38:49
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User Comments

1/11/19 Anne good to see 3 stars
5/01/11 gc I honestly think Hogans Heros is more realistic than this nonsense 2 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 3 stars
12/06/07 Pamela White will it ever end the most boring movie with no point 1 stars
5/07/06 chienne Total bollocks, only worth watching 4 t'xcellent Marcel Iures - my new hero. 4 stars
7/13/05 Russell Updike To much plot jumping. They didn't even stick to what most people thought it would be about. 1 stars
2/04/05 Dan GREAT! 5 stars
10/19/04 R.W. Welch Over concocted and keyed too low. Has a few good scenes. 3 stars
9/29/04 Dan Phil, Your Wife is a Jackass. This movie is fictional, but it still is entertaining. Good. 4 stars
6/21/04 DAVID ANDERSON Every bit as believable as HOGAN'S HEROES; recommend reading THE GREAT ESCAPE instead 2 stars
2/28/04 Priscilla Postlethwaite Compelling once it finally gets focused. Based on a true story? 4 stars
9/14/03 J It was OK, except for the beginning. 3 stars
5/03/03 Dr. Zinn Well made, yet a very strange film. 3 stars
4/12/03 Lin Rainey I liked it -- never heard of Farrell before -- do now. 4 stars
12/21/02 Achrya A bit of everything makes plenty of nothing 2 stars
11/29/02 mr. Pink very, very, very, very, very dull. Willis and Farrell are sleepwalking throughout this shit 1 stars
9/27/02 Phil M. Aficionado My wife, a WWII guru and junkie, actually told me to turn it off in the middle. Unheard of 2 stars
7/06/02 MichelleT. Excellent movie with Extraordinary actors 5 stars
7/04/02 Valerie Cameron (don't understand either CANNERY WHORE or CANARY WHORE Don't you mean "Nazi CAPTORS," Erik? 4 stars
6/08/02 Crunchyfrog Don't you mean "cannery whore," Erik? 1 stars
4/05/02 Priscilla Postlethwaite Compelling once it finally gets focused. Based on a true story? 4 stars
2/21/02 Timeo The acting and cinematography was great, the only problem being that the plot sucked. 4 stars
2/20/02 will monahan I urge those who saw the movie to read the book. Much better. More intriquing 3 stars
2/19/02 joe very good 5 stars
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  15-Feb-2002 (R)



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