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Awesome: 23.26%
Worth A Look48.84%
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2 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Casualties of War
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by Jack Sommersby

"Thought-Provoking and Disturbing Vietnam Tale"
4 stars

Though it flopped at North American box offices, this Brian De Palma-directed war film boasts an emotional complexity and power that many of its ilk lack.

Director Brian De Palma's powerful big-screen adaptation of Daniel Lang's harrowing same-name non-fiction book is flawed but still manages to disturb and provoke plenty of thought. This true-life account of a five-man platoon in Vietnam kidnapping a teenage girl during a long-range reconnaissance, and then proceeding to rape and murder her is undeniably strong stuff, yet the filmmaking (considering the delicate subject matter) is respectful, never exploitative. Michael J. Fox stars as the lone member who refuses to take part, and Sean Penn plays the ranking sergeant who in turn questions Fox's loyalty to the group. The film expounds upon the issues of individual responsibility (which resonates due in large part to Fox's superb, deeply felt performance) and the fight to maintain one's humanity while in the midst of inhumanity (which never quite gels due to Penn's uncouth overacting). The setting of Vietnam serves more as a moral backdrop than an action set-piece -- though the two battle sequences on display are well-choreographed -- yet it avoids the stagy preachiness of most Vietnam tales (notably the overpraised Platoon); and the film furthers De Palma's obsession with the tragedy of a helpless man's inability to save the woman who he grows to love (as was unforgettably rendered in his 1981 masterpiece, Blow Out). Yet, in addition to Penn, there's another flaw that diminishes the story's force: the omitting of Fox being under intense questioning by the defense during the court-martial hearing. In the book, it provided a more complex view of the military's ambiguous reaction to his forthcoming nature; in the film, however, it's a bit overstated (though the invention of Penn having saved Fox's life before the kidnapping adds some dimension). Had it stuck with the facts and not deviated with a couple of Hollywood conventions (like a soggy suspense sequence involving a grenade in a latrine), this could have been Best Picture material; but, shortcomings and all, it still qualifies as worthwhile viewing.

Worth discovering on home video. But please seek out the letterboxed DVD rather than the VHS, which is panned and scanned and makes a mockery of the director's masterful use of 2.35:1 widescreen.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2040&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/23/04 20:29:55
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell unpleasant & preachy 1 stars
2/18/13 action movie fan much better than platoon and ryan, but not as thriilling as bridge at menagen ,o 3 stars
1/23/13 anonymous ¿Sean Penn Overreacted? Sean Penn has nothing overacted, re acts well 5 stars
5/28/09 bronson Where's the appreciation for ahe Vietnamese actress? 2 stars
5/13/08 gus mitchell More true movies like this please, the shitheads should have been killed painfully & slow 5 stars
3/15/08 Pamela White dark drama war at its worst 4 stars
3/01/08 Pamela White war at its worst 4 stars
4/16/07 mb Almost left the movie at the rape scene ... very dark 4 stars
1/13/06 ALDO well made movie .... 5 stars
6/13/05 Indrid Cold A forced attempt at recreating Platoon's impact, but all in all, not bad. 3 stars
8/24/04 K Man great music 5 stars
5/14/04 Kooler Bad soundtrack, & casting in Alex P. Keaton. But Penn is god. 4 stars
9/03/03 James H. Fox Depressing 4 stars
6/04/03 Picky critic One of the best Vietnam movies I've seen 5 stars
5/22/03 mr. Pink Hard-hitting and compelling drama. A movie that will leave you shocked and devastated. 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Flawed but compelling. 4 stars
9/13/02 Tooltime Taylor Makes you glad you didn't go to Nam. Would've shot those fucks!! 5 stars
8/31/02 Charles Tatum Slow, dark, and preachy 2 stars
3/14/02 Butterbean The first half of this one was hard to watch, then the other half was crap. 3 stars
3/07/02 Mo Anand Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn were great, but not enough to save the movie 3 stars
1/01/02 Cory Gave a unique view of the war, not just another glorified, rambo, heroic film, war movie. 4 stars
9/17/01 Tommy Bhoy Brian De Palma's best film with solid central performances and a classic music score. 5 stars
9/17/01 Jamie Tells it how it was 4 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Over-acted, soulless, and mis-cast. Brian DePalma proves he's the master of ass. 2 stars
11/21/00 Bill Neal The worst movie of all time! This movie turned me sterile!Chance!!get em!! 1 stars
5/25/00 Matt Kelly Your review is way off. This is an excellent movie. It is not anti-war. Aussie's don't kno 5 stars
2/14/00 Hunley Handles the material with intelligence. Fox's mild persona is just right for the role. 4 stars
2/08/00 The Marsh Not a classic, but worth a mention in any top war films list, though. 3 stars
7/03/99 J-Dogg WHAT? This film is obvious and Penn & Fox are the hammiest fuckers I've ever seen! 1 stars
5/07/99 little jerry The simple story really nails the"what should I do?"problem.Sappy ending but very good film 5 stars
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  12-Aug-1989 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006


  02-Feb-1990 (M)

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