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Home of the Brave (2007)
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by Erik Childress

"Like Bobby – Without the Ambition"
1 stars

For years to come we’ll be scratching our heads on what to make of the current situation in Iraq. Will history view it as an unnecessary sequel to Vietnam or will the grand master plan no one can make heads or tails of reveal itself as the beginning to never-ending peace in the Middle East? For now, conservatives can use the troops as pawns in their games of war and politics all they want – applying guilt to the anti-war groups as being unsupportive to the troops even after one of their fellow brethren botches a joke never intended to diminish their bravery or patriotism. Movies as earnest as Irwin Winkler’s Home of the Brave are precisely the type that deep down we’d all like to support, but a vote against its heavy-handedness does not make you or I a troop hater. In fact, I believe they deserve a narrative free of after-school special dramatics even if it comes without justification of why they are coming home damaged in the first place.

The story of these soldiers begin in Iraq during the final pass of one of their tours. They’re calling home, making plans and saying the kinds of things that as moviegoers we’ve come to expect tragedy to follow. An ambush follows that’s part Clear and Present Danger, part Black Hawk Down. Several don’t make it out alive and those that do will be returning to the states either physically maimed or emotionally wounded. Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel) lost a few fingers in the attack, then a bit more in surgery leaving her with a prosthetic hand. Tommy (Brian Presley) lost his best friend (Chad Michael Murray) to the “I’ll be right back” cliché. Jamal Atkins (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) put a few rounds into an innocent Iraqi woman and has a bad back on top of that. Last but certainly not least is Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson), a doctor carrying with him the horror of an incident we won’t see until much later.

Each of them deal with their scars in anger. The good doctor drinks while trying to reconcile the relationship with his son who is staunchly against the war. Vanessa wants no help from anyone as she adjusts to her new Munson appliance. Tommy’s father didn’t raise no pussies and he wants him to get to those police tests instead of moping that he’s not ready to do anything but see a psychiatrist. Jamal can’t get the timely assistance he needs for his back from the Army and his girl won’t give him the time either so he does what anyone would do in his situation and start a hostage crisis.

I know a few people, both relatives and friends, who have been to at least one version of the Iraqi conflict. Even if the situations in the film mirrored to the dialogue of those I knew, Home of the Brave would have less impact than a PSA warning of caffeine dangers. Those who would get angry at a panning of this film describing laughter in their hearts rather than pathos should direct their frustration at writer Mark Friedman for allowing such snickering. Prosthetic appendages are nothing to be taken lightly as a result of war, but Friedman must have seen Kingpin at some point in his life. By drawing Biel’s character as such a one-note thickhead (even by stubborn standards) and writing scene after scene of her trying to do the most mundane of tasks and failing to get a handle on it, he’s left paralleling Roy Munson and not Homer Parrish from The Best Years of Our Lives.

Jackson’s doctor isn’t helped by getting to be the voice of both the troops and the liberals in a scene so artificially transplanted at his son’s school that they may as well install an applause sign in the theater and then immediately have an usher come over to smack you for applauding because “you weren’t there.” As an actor who so masterfully captured the plight of a crack addict in Jungle Fever, Jackson’s drunken act of generosity and subsequent outburst at Thanksgiving has to rank as a new low on his dramatic resume or towards the top of his comedic stylings. The less said about 50 Cent the better and the filmmakers must have agreed, fast-forwarding through his storyline to get a quick and ridiculously un-ironic resolution that trumps Elijah Wood’s similar fate in Bobby. Presley’s story by default becomes the one worth following as it’s saved from the more ludicrous elements of melodrama. His meltdown at his father’s garage seems tame by comparison and comes at a time when we can relate wanting to start beating up some cars.

I don’t have to be in Iraq to tell you that I don’t want to be there. My heart and prayers go out to every stationed soldier out there doing whatever they’re being told they’re fighting for this week. Whether I’m to attribute my freedom to wear a “Buck Fush” t-shirt to them or the veterans of WWII, I’m happy to give it up to them and is why any little thing we can do to get them home in one piece is our own duty. It could be through protest, education or paying them a proper tribute through rallies or any form of the media available to us. Home of the Brave does a disservice to their efforts by missing its chance to put us on the emotional plane with them as a whole. It’s so poorly made that it may discourage viewers to use their time on the next narrative treatment of this subject that comes along. Certain news outlets may believe they will lose viewers if they present all the horrors that come along with every Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman, but the passionate voices who clearly have something to say and the resources to say them need to find material that doesn’t treat the soldiers, even on their return home, as pawns for a few talk show soundbites.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15295&reviewer=198
originally posted: 12/15/06 00:11:08
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1/26/09 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 1 stars
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  11-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 23-Oct-2007



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