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Film takes place in 1973 with a national guard unit on training maneuvers deep in the Louisiana swamps. A squad of these weekend warriors goes on a recon mission and decides to steal some locals’ boats to cross the bayou. When the owners return in mid-theft, the incident quickly leads to violence and the unit commander (Peter Coyote) is killed. To make matters worse, the soldiers ‘arrest’ a local man (Brion James) and destroy his shack in retribution. Now the remaining guardsman are being hunted through the swamps and killed off one by one by the vengeful inhabitants. With only one box of live ammunition between them and miles of hostile swamp in front of them, their chances of survival seem slim, as their numbers dwindle and they start turning on each other, as well.

Southern Comfort is an action/thriller directed by Walter Hill and co-written with David Giler and Michael Kane, that sadly requires a lot of stupid behavior from it’s main characters to move the story along. Granted the leads are supposed to be a bunch of ignorant and arrogant yahoos, but even for these guys, some of their actions just don’t make sense. That and making most of the film’s principals unlikable, for the most part, doesn’t exactly evoke our sympathy much. Only Keith Carradine’s Private Spencer and Powers Boothe’s Corporal Hardin seem to have some common sense and are the only somewhat likable characters here and even that’s pushing it. The film does have atmosphere and it does seem at times like there could be danger around any tree, but it is hampered by a slow pace and the fact that these guys are more of a threat to themselves and each other, than the locals. Despite being a very flawed film, there is still somewhat of an entertainment value to it, thought. Maybe it is seeing these morons get themselves deeper into trouble and then what’s coming to them, sometimes by their own hands, and sometimes those of their pursuers. It also takes until the last act before things finally start to click on a thriller level and we get some solid action and suspense. On the positive side, there is some nice cinematography of the Louisiana Bayou by Andrew Laszlo and an atmospheric score by Ry Cooder.

I actually saw this in a theater in 1981 and remember it far more fondly than I did upon my recent revisit. It’s not terrible and there is some decent action, but I guess I was a lot more forgiving in my teens than I am now. It’s an OK flick, that’s really hampered by unlikable characters and the constant stupidity with which these trained reservists act, and the fact that they pretty much invite all that befalls them with their actions. It finally gets moving in the last act and the blurred line between good guys and bad guys is lifted for a more straightforward finale, but it’s a little late. Overall, it’s just disappointing when I initially remembered it as a much better movie. Also stars Fred Ward, The Thing’s T.K. Carter, Sonny Landham and Buckaroo Banzai’s Lewis Smith.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) bullets.

last_stand rating





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Much like Out Of The Furnace, Homefront is another example of a film with a routine and cliche’ B-movie action plot elevated into something more by a good cast and a solid director behind the camera. Here we have a plot that in the 80s would have perfectly suited Van Damme, Norris or Seagal with undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham), who has had enough of the violence and bloodshed associated with his job, moving to a small rural town in Louisiana to start a new life. But, an altercation between widower Phil’s daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) and a bully at school raises the ire of the boy’s redneck parents Cassie and Jimmy (Kate Bosworth and Marcus Hester) and when it escalates, Cassie calls upon her meth dealer brother Gator (James Franco) to get them payback. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Gator knows the man Phil last put behind bars, a biker gang leader named Danny Turrie (Chuck Zito) and sees this as an opportunity to earn a favor from the powerful gang leader. Now a schoolyard incident turns into a bloody fight for survival as Turrie sends a squad of killers, led by the lethal Cyrus (Frank Grillo), into this quiet town to get revenge on the man who put him in jail and caused the death of his son.

Sure we have seen this all before but, with a surprisingly tight script by none other then Sylvester Stallone, based on Chuck Logan’s book, and a real solid directing job by Gary Fleder, this film goes from direct to home media action flick to a very taunt and entertaining thriller. Felder creates some nice tension and suspense from a routine action movie plot and when that action comes, it’s fast, furious and bloody. The film has an intensity that runs through every scene and the action is well choreographed and we get just enough of it to punctuate the story without going overboard or getting over stylized. Most of the scenes are hard-hitting fight scenes and shootouts, saving the car chases and explosions to up the ante in the last act. Felder has a nice but, unobtrusive visual style which takes good advantage of the small town Louisiana locations, especially the scenes shot at night in the swamps and around Broker’s old house. There’s none of that post production editing FX or filters, just some crisp cinematography by Theo van de Sande that makes every shot have some nice, rich but, natural color. His night shots in the swamps are bathed in cool blues and I liked this no nonsense approach to the look of the film.

Felder also has a good cast to work with. Statham is an underrated leading man and does far too many generic action flicks but, he is as good an actor as he is effective in the action and here he proves it again with his portrayal of a loving father who will go to any length to protect his daughter. And he has never looked better in the film’s vicious fight scenes. Franco once again proves himself a chameleon in his portrayal of a sleazy redneck drug dealer who, is sly and clever but, ultimately, not clever enough to know when enough is enough and he is in over his head. He wants to be a big league gangster but, would be better off sticking to his small time meth business and staying out of his sister’s petty squabbles. Winona Ryder is a surprising choice to play Sheryl, Gator’s ex and a woman with connections in the seedy underworld and is the one who helps bring in the reinforcements from Turrie when Gator’s thugs get their asses handed to them by the ex-DEA agent, Broker. Frank Grillo makes an imposing villain as hired killer Cyrus and one of my few complaints about the film is he is not utilized enough and his showdown with Broker should have been a bit more epic. Rounding out, Bosworth and Hester are adequate as a stereotypical redneck couple who start a huge bloody mess just because their bully son is basically bested by a girl. Fan favorite Clancy Brown is also solid as the local sheriff, who will only look the other way so much. And Rachelle Lefevre is pretty and likable as Maddy’s teacher Susan, a potential love interest for Phil but, a story sub-plot that gets dropped and goes nowhere when the plot gets rolling.

To wrap things up, this is, on the inside, a routine B-movie action flick given some surprising depth by a good script from Sly… who avoids, for the most part, a lot of the cheesy dialog that usually inhabits his Expendables scripts… a very solid directing job by Gary Fleder and good performances all around by it’s cast. We have seen it all before, it’s not original in any way but, it’s a cliche’ action flick elevated to more quality entertainment due to the respect given the material by the creative team behind it. And it just proves that talent can overcome mediocrity. No classic, but a really solid action flick that puts some class back into the overdone ‘trying to escape violence but, having it follow you’ action flick. One of Statham’s better flicks in quite some time, too. Won’t win any awards but, should certainly provide satisfying entertainment on movie night.

3 very solid bullets. Would have given it more had it’s story not been so familiar.

ex2 rating