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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.41%
Worth A Look: 11.54%
Average: 1.28%
Pretty Bad: 26.92%
Total Crap53.85%

4 reviews, 54 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Oh, what a comedy it could have been!"
2 stars

There's a game you see sometimes at improv comedy shows called, depending on the troupe doing it, "Faster Faster" or "Half Life." In it, the actors improvise a scene one minute in length, then re-do the scene in 30 seconds, then again in 15, then in seven, then 3 1/2. The comedy comes from seeing them scramble not just to remember what they did, but to do it in half the time.

"Basic," which is not a comedy but should have been, is structured the same way. The first pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you plot twist comes, say, 50 minutes in. The next one comes 25 minutes later, then 12 minutes, then six, then three, and so on. By the time the film ends, the twists are coming at a dizzying pace, and none of them make a damn bit of sense.

John Travolta, in a continuing effort to re-destroy his career, plays Tom Hardy, a DEA agent hanging out in Panama doing I forget what. He's been disciplined for allegedly taking bribes and is what movies call a "loose cannon." His old Army buddy, Bill Styles (Timothy Daly), calls him in to investigate the death of Sgt. West (Samuel L. Jackson), a sadistic trainer of rangers who, coincidentally, once tortured Hardy himself.

West died during a training exercise in the jungle, as did a few of his trainees. The survivors are Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), now dying of bullet wounds, and Dunbar (Brian Van Holt), in fine health. The two have contradictory accounts of what happened, and there are more accounts yet to come, much to the frustration of Hardy and Lt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen), who is upset that an outsider has been brought in to interrogate the witnesses when she could do it just fine herself, thank you very much.

Also, Harry Connick Jr. plays an Army doctor who is a former lover of Osborne's and a pal of Hardy's and a few other things that would be considered spoilers if I told you what they were.

The screenplay, by James Vanderbilt ("Darkness Falls"), is a silly exercise in movie tricks. Let's put a twist here! Let's have an unreliable narrator there! The director, John McTiernan, who will never be forgiven for "Rollerball" (2002), cannot yield much that is worthwhile from the script, nor from his cast, which has a few talented people among it.

And yet, the film is not without redeeming qualities. Despite its many impossible twists -- or perhaps because of them -- it is an enjoyably dumb film, the sort of thing that is entertaining for all the wrong reasons. It's never dull, that's for sure, the same way interesting dreams are never dull: It may not adhere to any recognizable logic, but it's a lark while it lasts.

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originally posted: 06/30/03 15:39:04
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User Comments

2/24/18 Joe Smaltz Poorly lit jungle shots with about 62 cuts per minute. Is that supposed to be exciting? 2 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell full of twists that dont make much sense 2 stars
12/22/10 Sean M Preposterous to the nth, but more energy than most and a vintage unhinged Travolta perf. 3 stars
11/29/10 mr.mike Dreadful. Why was Ribisi trying to channel Nick Cage? 2 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Great Action!! 5 stars
8/03/08 HateMuch? Pretty Good Movie. What's with the Reviewer's gay-fantasy for Travolta? 4 stars
8/16/06 Eric Rountree Good acting and a believable story 4 stars
5/17/06 chris f basic shite 1 stars
4/02/06 Dillon Underrated military mystery. Fun times 4 stars
3/11/06 Dillon Underrated mystery thriller. Fast paced and unpredictable 4 stars
8/19/05 Sherman A bag of...cliches- Like aformation running by every 3 mins! 1 stars
8/16/05 ES didn't I see this when it was called the General's Daughter? 1 stars
8/12/05 R.W. Welch Seriously overplotted and entirely unconvincing. 2 stars
6/22/05 Steve Newman I go against all the critics on Bitchslap - I loved it 5 stars
1/02/05 Doremimi The entire thing was hard to watch, but the worst was Nielsen's pathetic "southern" accent. 1 stars
9/23/04 Bill Good Show Reckon most that didnt like it are the sort that always see the twist coming but 4 stars
9/14/04 Sully simply retarded - ending was ludicrious - sucked monkey balls 1 stars
9/02/04 Nut lots of twists, hard to follow, ridiculous ending that is so not believable 4 stars
5/14/04 Stuart ridiculous ending - would rather watch paint dry 2 stars
5/06/04 J.Peckerfoot great film with story retold by different people to throw us off.crackin! 4 stars
5/06/04 Bobby Fisher who would not understand the twists... only a yogurt!! 5 stars
4/01/04 Tito Refer to the title. 1 stars
3/04/04 Joe Came here to try to figure out the plot. Still no comprehension. Not gonna watch it again. 2 stars
2/09/04 Whatevr Like "Rashomon," only it sucks ass! 1 stars
12/07/03 john pointlessly complicated - has about ten flashbacks that as it turns out never happened 1 stars
11/23/03 adrian GREAT movie!! i guess if it was full of explosions and death you guys would love it huh?? 5 stars
11/01/03 Jenna Furr RIGHT Sylvie! Made me miss Ashley J. too. There, I said it. Gotta go change my panties now. 1 stars
9/16/03 Sylvie Alice Borden So many twist endings you forget what it was about. Where's Ashley Judd when we need her? 1 stars
9/10/03 Alisha OMG! What a load of crap someone dumped in a toilet and decided to make it into a movie! 1 stars
8/28/03 Chris Too many stupid turns which make no sense 1 stars
7/15/03 Shawn A movie that made you think to much, but I thought it was pretty good. 4 stars
6/27/03 Yappie Huh? 1 stars
6/26/03 Dr. Jake Jack WHAT THE FUCK!? 1 stars
6/17/03 Jackie One of this year's worse 1 stars
6/14/03 Eschenennock Manville Worse than BATTLEFIELD EARTH? Not quite THAT bad, Jack Sommersby! 1 stars
6/12/03 Jerry OH, SWEET JESUS!!!!!!! 1 stars
6/12/03 Julia Cox OD-ing on twist endings! Is it the cinematic wave of the future (Groan, groan!)? 1 stars
6/12/03 Sylvie Alice Borden So many twist endings you for get what it was about. Where's Ashley Judd when we need her? 1 stars
6/11/03 Rocky No!! NOOOOOO!!!!!!!! 1 stars
6/10/03 Jodie Solomon Could not understand anything. what was the ending all about. What does section 8 do? 2 stars
6/09/03 Ronald The people who likes this can go to hell! 1 stars
5/27/03 aiken drum All the twists are shit and you come out of the theatre going that was Fucking stupid. 1 stars
5/21/03 Jake Im with you guys 1 stars
5/21/03 Christy Chandler You would get more pleasure from flushing $10 down the toilet. 1 stars
4/17/03 KingNeutron Too confusing, but my goodness - Connie Nielsen has great legs!! 2 stars
4/16/03 Obi Wan Shoul get about 4 Raspberries 1 stars
4/06/03 Territ I thought I was missing the logic. I wasn't. 2 stars
4/05/03 Rich Stabone Sucky movie 1 stars
4/04/03 poetchuck Its a movie, suspend disbelief and enjoy it 4 stars
4/02/03 Uncle Salty Hello, my name is Samuel Jackson. I play the same character in every movie. Enjoy. 1 stars
4/02/03 Vince I was drunk when i saw this, but i could still tell that it was a piece of shit. 1 stars
4/02/03 daphney whatever 5 stars
4/01/03 Dr. Bitterpants Do you know what they call a "loser" in Amsterdam? "Le Travolta with Cheese." 1 stars
4/01/03 Todd Travolta is to movies, what teeth is to penis. 1 stars
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  28-Mar-2003 (R)



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