Worth A Look: 11.54%
Pretty Bad: 26.92%
Total Crap: 53.85%
4 reviews, 54 user ratings
by Chris Parry
There's just no saving some people from themselves. John Travolta thinks his middle aged spread is sexy. Connie Nielsen thinks she knows how to act like Linda Hamilton. Tim Daly thinks he knows how to act... period. Sam Jackson thinks all he has to do is sign on to every crappy movie he's offered and then show up and yell, and we'll see him as a great actor. And Giovanni Ribisi... I don't even know what he's thinking. But the worst offender in the career-castration stakes is director John McTiernan, who completely missed the point of the original Rollerball before turning it into last year's largest train wreck, and has followed up that career low point with what is quite possibly the most by-the-numbers military 'thriller' since [insert any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie title here]. I half expected Travolta to finish th flick by yelling "did you order the code red!"So some jarheads end up dead during a South American training exercise gone wrong. One soldier made it home carrying an injured colleague, and the rest are missing. Where are they? what happened to them? It seems nobody in the entire US Armed Forces has the slightest clue how to interrogate a witness, so the camp bossman (Tim Daly) calls in 'a pro from the DEA' (Travolta) to take over from his wimpy-assed provost (Nielsen).
"Everyone involved just watched their stock price drop 79%."
Which poses a series of questions from the first ten minutes of the film. Why would you bring in someone from the DEA to do a witness interrogation? Especially when he's being investigated for bribery (yawn) and clearly has an attitude (snooze).
And why are we exposed to Travolta walking around his apartment in nothing but a towel and seventy five pounds of stomach fat? I haven't seen a bellybutton that huge since King Kong Bundy lost his tights while performing a Big Splash on Cowboy Bob Orton. You could park a Buick in that thing. I believe I just saw hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart drilling towards the center of the earth through that bellybutton.
To be sure, Travolta has more rolls than a Korean bakery, but the Korean rolls have far less hair in them and are much firmer.
So with Travolta's Playgirl shot out of the way, he proceeds to then perform the same ridiculous role her pulled in Broken Arrow, Face|Off and any number of other flicks where he thinks he's far cooler than he is. Travolta thinks he's so cool you could store a side of beef in his ass. He thinks he's such a bad ass that little kids acorss America will be tugging on their mom's skirt and saying things like "mommy, how can I get a disgusting stomach and a bullethole chin dimple just like John?" and "Fuck being a fireman, I want to be a DEA agent under investigation for bribery!"
As a side note, and nothing at all to do with the movie, have you seen pictures of Travolta getting off his private jet? He has this private jet, see, and whenever he has to fly somewhere he pilots the thing by himself. Only, he had a captain's uniform made up, complete with hat, so he can dress like a real pilot. And he thinks this sort of behavior isn't weird. I mean, it's like me going to the grocery store in an astronaut's uniform and saying "what are you looking at? I want to be a spaceman, got a problem with that?" But I digress.
So Basic stinks like week old vomit. And it's about as much fun to pick through.
See, the problem here is that someone bought a bad script off a rookie writer who doesn't actually realize wheat goes into making a whodunnit. Allow me to fill writer James Vanderbilt (wasn't he in Dawson's Creek?) in on what it takes to pull off a murder mystery. First, you need to give clues as to what the answer might be, so that the audience has at least a shot of figuring things out before you do the big expose. There's no point presenting things one way, then saying "Surprise - Actually what we showed you was totally bogus, so here's what really happened - no, that was bogus too! Here's what REALLY really happened... NOPE! HAHAHA, look at you all trying to figure it out... stupid you!"
You throw in some clues, throw in some red herrings, then slowly piece it together so the audience GIVES A FUCK!
Of course, director John McTiernan clearly should have pointed this out, but he was too busy helping Travolta stroke his ego all day. Either that or he phoned it in. Or maybe he's just lost the plot altogether and thinks he's actually making music videos these days. Regardless, McTiernan's use of clearly soundstaged backgrounds, recycled shots, and enough totally dark scenes to leave you wondering if maybe the projectionist fell asleep with his head in front of the lens, doesn't add anything to the production - in fact it gives you ample time to check your watch, tie your shoe, nip out to the pub for a quick bevvie, come back and have missed absolutely nothing that matters.
How could that be?
Because nothing presented in the first hour of this film actually matters. None of it applies to the facts presented at the end, and what little does is repeated in flashback form in case we missed it (because we're simpletons, see).
Travolta and Nielsen spend the opening few minutes hating each other, to which I could hear SEVERAL audience members saying to each other "okay, so these two will screw by the end"... sure enough, she's giving her number to him within the first half hour, even as they're fighting.
From a comedy standpoint, nothing is funnier in cinema history than Connie Nielsen's attempt at the 'good cop/bad cop' game. Seeing her play the tough guy is like being called 'short-ass' by a midget. You know you're supposed to be offended and angered, but you also know that if you moved half an inch in her direction she'd jump six feet in the air and be out of the room in half a second.
There are a few moments in the film that deserve at least begrudging cred. Vanderdoody's dialogue does occasionally pull off humor and style. I say occasionally because for the majority of the time it fails miserably. Travolta has a few funny moments, but again they're surpassed by the horrific image of his bellybutton coming at the camera like a background left over from The Black Hole. And Nielsen's hot, though not anywhere near hot enough to justify buying a ticket.
But the most amazingly bad aspect of this film is Tim Daly, as the camp head honcho who just wants answers. See, as this film is throwing you red herrings in every direction, one thing gives away the ending (or what should be the ending) from about the tenth minute - Tim Daly's poker face. Daly basically telegraphs the ending (or what should be the ending) from the first moment you see him, and to prove this I actually wrote down "10th minute, bad guy is [name omitted]" when I watched the film, and sure enough I was right.I keep saying "what should be the ending" because McTiernan pulled an 'audience testing pleaser' by adding a happy ending on after the original ending. The original ending might have left plenty of things for the audience to think about. The added ending is like a scene that basically says "oh, it was all a dream! I never left Kansas at all!" And that, good people, is a sentence John McTiernan can only wish that he could say about the last three years of his career.
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originally posted: 05/13/03 05:35:26