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Pretty Crappy: 4.17%
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3 reviews, 150 user ratings

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Full Metal Jacket
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The war movie as zombie movie: real zombies, bred to kill."
5 stars

Somewhere near the middle of "Full Metal Jacket," the sardonic protagonist Private Joker (Matthew Modine) is asked by a disdainful colonel why he wears a peace symbol on his flak jacket and has "Born to Kill" written on his helmet. Joker's answer? "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man." This detail is not unimportant: "Full Metal Jacket" and almost everyone in it are split right down the middle.

The movie is formally split: Its first half unfolds at Parris Island, where clueless "maggots" are hammered on the anvil of military training until they are forged into human weapons; its second half is set before and after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, where many of the bits of business in the first half pay off. Stanley Kubrick didn't just make a war movie; he made a philosophical inquiry into the birth of killers -- which is presented here as man coming to grips with the Jungian Shadow.

If that makes Full Metal Jacket sound stodgy and dull, it certainly isn't. Kubrick was an entertainer as well as an artist, and the film's first section comes as close to pure comedy as his double whammy of Lolita and Dr. Strangelove in the '60s. Indeed, much of the movie reads as a bizarre conflation of those earlier classics: sex and violence, violence as sex. "This is my rifle, this is my gun," the recruits' drill sergeant Hartman (Lee Ermey) bellows, grabbing his crotch on the word gun; "This is for fighting, this is for fun," the maggots call back. The recruits are trained to embrace the permanent hard-on of a rifle: As long as you are a Marine with a gun, you will never be flaccid. The homoerotic tone of the training sequences is also unmistakable. Lined up with shaved heads, the recruits look like stiff dicks, with Hartman always shoving his loudly open mouth into their faces. The entire experience seems driven by a violent terror of homosexuality and femininity, in this spotless white place where young men sleep in close quarters, shower together, shit together.

Lee Ermey has given subtler performances since (he was nicely quiet in Dead Man Walking and Seven), but his relentlessly antagonistic turn as Sgt. Hartman gave him instant cult status he dines out on to this day (hosting the military show Mail Call, presiding over talking-doll replicas of himself). Hartman is a clown, but a clown who bites. His initial browbeating of the pathetic Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio), who can't keep from smirking at the drill instructor's elaborate invective, is hideously funny because we wouldn't be able to keep a straight face either. Then Hartman cuts Pyle's laughter off (along with his oxygen), and ours, too. Under Hartman's pitiless tutelage, Pyle gradually becomes a competent recruit but also subhuman. The implication is that this is the obvious trade-off, though others in the same batch of recruits -- Joker and his buddy Cowboy (Arliss Howard) -- manage some intellectual detachment from the process and retain some humanity. Pyle doesn't; he becomes what the Marine Corps wants -- a perfect sociopath "married to his piece."

After the first section -- a prologue promoted to Side A of an album -- the movie becomes anecdotal, with analogues of the boot-camp characters popping up everywhere. Nobody in Vietnam is as dominant as Hartman, but we're given a rather lackadaisical authority figure, a lieutenant who edits Stars and Stripes and sends reporter Joker off to cover Tet with cheesedick photographer Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard) in tow. Kubrick plays with military language here -- a new directive encourages reporters to replace "search and destroy" with "sweep and clear" ("Very catchy," snarks Joker). Pauline Kael's review complained that the Marines' "language is inert," but the dialogue here is another instance of Kubrick's fascination with "phatic speech" -- verbiage with no content. A lot of the dialogue is just callow boasting, especially when Joker meets Pyle's Vietnam twin, Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin), and pretty much distrusts him on sight. (The brutal Animal Mother, who resembles a harder Pyle, is what Pyle might have become if he had survived the Island.)

Full Metal Jacket gathers tension in a cruelly mathemetical sequence foreshadowed by Hartman's earlier praise of infamous Marine-trained snipers -- Whitman, Oswald -- who showed what one motivated Marine and his rifle could do. The platoon has made a wrong turn; acting doesn't get any finer than Arliss Howard and Dorian Harewood (as the ironic Eightball) looking at a map and realizing how far off they are. One by one, men scamper over the treacherous rubble of Hue and get picked off ignominiously. Kubrick summons up whispers of the uncanny here, as if the god of war himself is reaching down and unplugging these robots of combat. There is a face-off mirroring the final one between Joker and Pyle, only this time Joker does not "hesitate in the moment of truth."

Coming as it did after Oliver Stone's Platoon, and after seven years of silence from Kubrick himself, Full Metal Jacket couldn't help but disappoint critics, none of whom really seemed to get it. Some turned to Gustav Hasford's more emotionally transparent source novel, castigating Kubrick for yet another icy view of humanity.

Kubrick, it was said, painted portraits of inhumanity by denying his characters their humanity. But there is humanity here, though not the sort we generally like to face. It is humanity as flawed system -- the faulty meat run through the grinder of war. Hartman reigns over his enclosed kingdom of recruits, but he's not getting them ready for war. He's getting them ready for death.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1360&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/25/06 22:12:09
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User Comments

4/28/18 The Big D. 100% respect for SSgt Ermey's real-life service; movie falls short of Jack Webb's THE D.I. 3 stars
3/24/18 Jeff Wilder Excellent first half, inconsistent second half. 4 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell has its moments but overrated imho 4 stars
2/07/17 Louise Very watchable, with an evocative soundtrack. Seen it several times and never gets stale. 5 stars
3/22/15 stanley welles a powerful, tightly crafted anti-war satire 5 stars
10/31/14 David Hollingsworth harrowing and risky war film 5 stars
4/14/13 Private Joker The first half was worth the price of admission. The second half was a little disorganized. 4 stars
2/13/12 Kyle Amazing film unlike heavy-handed, political crap like Platoon(gritty, aloof and honest.) 5 stars
8/09/10 Quigley The first act is one of the greatest ever. Worth it just for Act 1 alone. 5 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King The characters were not believable and the story was quite predictable. 3 stars
3/24/10 Jeff Extremely entertaining film 5 stars
2/11/10 Simon Despite some overly deliberate/unnatural acting, the direction is meticulous and masterful 5 stars
1/24/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Plays like an R rated Gomer Pyle episode. 5 stars
8/09/09 Jeff Wilder This is what you get if you cross Platoon and Apocalypse Now. Great first half, weak 2nd, 4 stars
7/01/08 RHawk Intense points of emotion in the movie. Great cinematography. Script not the greatest. 4 stars
5/23/08 R.W. Welch A few false notes, but effective stuff for the most part. B+ 4 stars
7/10/07 Total Crap "What is YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION, NUMBNUTS" BOOOOOM!!! 5 stars
7/05/07 Corporal B., USMC I have seen the first half +1,000 times....great. The 2nd half maybe 50 times. 5 stars
6/10/07 al smith amazing the best first hour of any movie bar none 5 stars
1/09/07 Abs Feels a 3 episodes stuck together, but other than that it's an awesome film 5 stars
6/27/06 MP Bartley the first half of training is terrific and funny. Second half is meh. 4 stars to be kind. 4 stars
6/19/06 Indrid Cold A few great moments (mostly involving R. Lee Ermey), but the story is flimsy at best. 3 stars
3/25/06 dr jim Maybe the greatest war film ever made 5 stars
3/03/06 omar this was a pointless, stupid movie 1 stars
12/18/05 Dan great movie! 5 stars
11/20/05 John Dog Amazing. 5 stars
11/05/05 Ben Brilliant! 5 stars
8/27/05 Moctezuma Pretty good 5 stars
8/22/05 Isaac Baranoff CInematic masterpiece. 5 stars
8/17/05 ES Jules there was no glorification of war in the longest day, this movie was ok 3 stars
8/05/05 Brandy Harrington "FULL METAL JACKET!" *blows brains out all over the bathroom wall* 5 stars
8/05/05 Pierre Give it a try! 5 stars
7/26/05 Kevin Kubrick Hit this one a little to close to home 5 stars
6/10/05 Anthony G Real good movie 5 stars
4/03/05 Ric Not much worth mentioning past the first forty-five minutes, but still well made overall. 3 stars
3/28/05 chris hargrave genius - part 2 grows out of part one 5 stars
3/26/05 indrid cold 1st half is fantastic, the war scenes are surprisingly bad. See AN or Platoon. 4 stars
2/12/05 ALDO if your looking for a war story...look elsewhere...coz theres hardly any war scenes in this 2 stars
9/29/04 ALBERT great lee ermey! 5 stars
9/26/04 Dan Whose the leader of the club that was made for you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. 5 stars
7/11/04 Monster W. Kung Not one of Kubrick's best, but still a foot above your average war movie. 4 stars
7/04/04 john bale Kubrick's Nightmarish Vietnam created in England haunts you long after the film ends 4 stars
4/13/04 IP Freeley I agree with 3 man...first 40 minutes is good then fizzles badly 3 stars
3/02/04 stephanie it was ok, it didn't relly give me a great picture of what vietnam was really like. 3 stars
2/29/04 Daveman While it lacks the hallucinatory horror of AN, it still stands among the best 'nam films. 4 stars
2/22/04 MW Comparable to Apocalypse Now 5 stars
2/10/04 Sergeant Hartman You best unfuck yourself private or I will uncrew your head and shit down your neck!!!! 5 stars
12/25/03 Joe Outstanding 5 stars
12/23/03 dehshir shirgir the best film i have ever seen about vietnam war 5 stars
12/18/03 J Pluim Any one who didn't like this movie is a ill-cultured Jack Ass 5 stars
12/04/03 john it is powerful but has actually very little substance 4 stars
9/26/03 Alan You are far better off watching Platoon. If you have seen Platoon, watch it again. 2 stars
7/30/03 3man "I can't hear you!" Great first 40 mins or so then it kind of fizzles. 4 stars
7/11/03 Indrid Cold 1st half hilarious and terrifying, 2nd half not even close to impact of e.g., Platoon. 3 stars
7/10/03 shon an excellent movie 5 stars
5/20/03 Ryan F. o.k. first half, but lost its vision quick. Another flop for Kubrick 2 stars
2/24/03 Mike Awsome war movie, SEMPER FIDELIS! 5 stars
1/11/03 will that was very interesting indeed 4 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Superb beginning; dishelved follow-through. 2 stars
10/22/02 Nevz Hardcore. 5 stars
10/02/02 Daniel Ehrlich Hard core. Fucking hard core. This is the first movie about war that has ever moved me 4 stars
9/29/02 Morally Sound "You're so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!" 5 stars
8/25/02 Turkish Is that you john wayne? is this me? 5 stars
6/24/02 Charles Tatum First half- good, second half- average 4 stars
4/27/02 maximal01 A great movie that introduced a new action into our lexacon: skull-fucking 4 stars
3/14/02 Rockitman007 Best Vietnam Flick! 5 stars
2/27/02 Shrike take it on the chin 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Wonderful. 4 stars
2/12/02 Nevz this good 5 stars
1/24/02 travis reddout very very good 5 stars
1/18/02 Magnum Craphole Good, but overall one of Kubrick's weakest. First part great, but it goes down. 4 stars
12/11/01 slappy jacks one of my favorite war films next to apocolypse now purty nifty! 5 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith "WHO SAID THAT? Who's the communist twinkle toed SOB who signed his own death warrant?" 5 stars
9/19/01 DeSeRt RaT UK First half excellent, Second half not so good but still an excellent film 5 stars
9/12/01 Toad man Are you a peter puffer ? Sir no sir. 5 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk The first 45 minutes are worth anyone's time ten-fold. Fucking brilliant. 5 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat The most realistic war movie ever. Even more convincing than "Platoon"! 5 stars
7/24/01 Nathan Brattain Grabastic pieces of amphibian shit! 5 stars
7/05/01 Connoisseur not Kubrick's best film (that's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) 4 stars
7/04/01 Tim Gee The contrast between the two halves is perfect 5 stars
6/15/01 Melissa in NYC Undeniably great. Never have I seen a war film without the shitty preaching until now. 5 stars
6/14/01 zombie awesome! especially the first half 5 stars
5/31/01 Bada Bing Crosby You climb obstacles like old people fuck! 5 stars
5/12/01 Biz Limpkit wow 5 stars
5/07/01 The Chosen One great 5 stars
5/07/01 Mikko Salminen Enjoyable war movie. 4 stars
5/07/01 Johnny Skeekee can't fuck with Kubrick...period 5 stars
5/06/01 Sblymnl Crymnl opening scene makes it the best war movie ever, but goes downhill once they get to the war 5 stars
4/18/01 erin this movie was excellent, but could use a better ending 4 stars
4/04/01 Hawkeye There's little more chilling than killing machines singing the Mickey Mouse club song. 5 stars
4/02/01 Daniel Rieker Kill them all, let god sort them out. He knows the good ones from the bad ones this is good 5 stars
2/10/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi The first half is better than the last...but the whole is unreal... 4 stars
2/04/01 Invader More like a cartoon than a war movie, but classic Hollywood entertainment 4 stars
1/21/01 Mic Excellent, but characters were too weak in ending: they've already been thru hell, yet... 4 stars
12/18/00 K-Dawg Hands down, the best war movie ever made! 5 stars
11/24/00 The Evil Penguin the best of all war films; Watch the Kubrick films. He's better than Steven Spielberg 5 stars
11/13/00 melissa I hinestly thought that this was a great war movie showing the internal decay of the charac 4 stars
11/09/00 bruno behind apocalypse now this is the best war movie 5 stars
10/29/00 Big Al im i the only one that thinks this movie is total crap 1 stars
10/24/00 Viking The boot camp sequence is brilliant but disturbing 5 stars
8/03/00 Elvisfan Kubrick was taken from us WAY too early 5 stars
5/29/00 Zatoichi Jones There is no need to ever make a Vietnam film again. 5 stars
5/28/00 Cooke This is an awesome portrait of war. 5 stars
5/25/00 Gremlin I feel sorry for Gomer. This movie was just about the best Vietnam movie in my opinion. 5 stars
5/05/00 P.Rodriguez Finally a war movie that shows just how f@#cked up wasr is. 5 stars
4/02/00 perverted pixie Private Pyle gave me NIGHTMARES!! 5 stars
3/22/00 Andrew La Verde My most Favourite War Film Ever (Brilliant) 5 stars
2/20/00 Matthew Smith one of the best films about vietnam 5 stars
1/20/00 Add WoW!!! Intense, mindblowing stuff why can't all movies be this good? 5 stars
1/19/00 Ryan Shepherd A great movie that tries to make you understand what these Marines went through. 5 stars
1/09/00 unstrung the real nitty gritty of war, what its truely like 5 stars
12/19/99 Eric S. First 30 minutes: excellent. Last hour and a half: horrible. 2 stars
12/07/99 dog the scene in the barracks was really good 3 stars
11/28/99 Crystal Fleming Realistic looking. Good Drama. 5 stars
11/18/99 Tyson Stewart A war picture masterpiece! 5 stars
11/11/99 Tim Klarkowski Personaly, I am gay, so I hate war flims. This one was o.k. 3 stars
11/09/99 Ralf Behet Terrific first half, unfocused and pretentious second half. Kubrick can do better. 4 stars
10/31/99 Critic Better than saving private ryan in every was that counts 5 stars
10/21/99 chad this movie is the king, if you don't like it you don't know a good flick when you see one. 5 stars
10/18/99 Johnny Morris Absolutely fucking ace! 5 stars
8/25/99 Doug Paulsen 1rst have is funny in parts, and moves quicker than the second 5 stars
8/15/99 The Bomb 69 disturbing, I cried when they "soaped" Pyle 5 stars
8/02/99 Will G an extraordinary blend of disturbance, comedy, sex, and entertainment 5 stars
7/18/99 Dawn Two guns up! Definite look into the war manaized brains of Vietnam soldiers. 5 stars
7/16/99 soccer_mum From the real-life drill sargeant on down....another awesome Kubrick film. A must see!! 5 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
7/05/99 Angie it was ok...the 1st half was excellent but the last half was kinda slow.. 4 stars
7/03/99 J-Dogg Good first half, uninteresting last. Shoulda stayed in boot camp. 4 stars
7/03/99 randy grubbs 1st half is better than last half, but it is a killer movie 5 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Kubrick - Auteur supreme. 5 stars
6/07/99 Kristen Hamm Kubrick is God. That is all. 5 stars
5/12/99 Benny Gordon If you haven't seen this film, hire it right now. If you have hire it again. 5 stars
4/25/99 Michael Grimm makes me want to pluck the drill sergeant's eye out and... well you know the rest 5 stars
4/18/99 jimmy jam Best war flick ever. Woah! 5 stars
3/08/99 Cathy & Kevin Our kids even love thins one. Watch it once every couple of months. 5 stars
2/05/99 donkey_dew Definatly not THE BEST war movie ever made, but still damn near excellent. AWESOME. 5 stars
2/01/99 Kooky Sal Kubrick's insanity means he doesnt work much, but when he does it's genius. This is genius. 5 stars
1/31/99 Madden The actor who played the drill instructor actually was one during the war. 5 stars
1/24/99 YellerDog The tragic tale of Private Pyle... =') 5 stars
1/12/99 jvt Spielburg will never be able to contend with the likes of Kubrick (or Malick) 5 stars
12/05/98 tj best war movie ever, for the first half alone 5 stars
11/26/98 grnr if Kubrick made it its good. no exception here, no glory just reality 5 stars
11/25/98 Mr.Pink Best war movie ever! Nobody will top this! Shame that Kubrick doesn't make more films 5 stars
11/25/98 Fred Almost as good as Saving Pvt. Ryan. Drill Sgt. kicked ass!!!! 5 stars
11/23/98 Silent Rob Superbly crafted, psychological war flick.From dehumanization,to human(e) drama. Masterwork 5 stars
11/23/98 J-Guy fucked up movie. 4 stars
11/23/98 little jerry Imitation Kubrick.Tries to be SHATTERING but can only manage a whimper. Script is a mess. 2 stars
11/22/98 Lord Of The Dunce First half hour was every bit as unsettling as Saving Private Ryan. Unreal yet real. 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1987 (R)


  02-Feb-1988 (M)

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