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Overall Rating
3.99

Awesome40.3%
Worth A Look: 33.46%
Just Average: 15.59%
Pretty Crappy: 6.08%
Sucks: 4.56%

15 reviews, 173 user ratings


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Black Hawk Down
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by Erik Childress

"About As Oscar Worthy As 'Gladiator'"
4 stars

If only time travel were possible. That way we could go back to 1993 and hopefully correct the mistakes involved in the tragedy-laden raid in Somalia. The media could be prevented from turning this incident into a tentpole for the government to get squeamish about sending our boys in to kick a little ass. Someone could even send The Terminator back to kill Michael Bay, Final Countdown-style, thus preventing the cinematic catastrophe that was Pearl Harbor from ever materializing. All good reasons to get Doc Brown moving on a new DeLorean. However I’d like to hitch a ride on the original timeline of this film, to gauge both the critical reaction and its success, because while Black Hawk Down is certainly, at times, an entertaining action picture, those touting it as an Oscar-worthy contender seemed more influenced by its timing than its quality.

To even lump Black Hawk into a category of action/adventure, may certainly appear insulting to those aware and close to the true story on which it is based. The year is 1993 and warlords are seizing food and supplies from the citizens of Somalia (a situation poetically explained once by the late Phil Hartman, stealing bites from McDonalds customers as Bill Clinton.) Aware of the locations of two key figures in the army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid, American forces were sent in to capture them as part of the grand plan to stop the Civil War. When two of their inpenetrable Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, our guys were trapped and surrounded by men, women and children (dubbed “skinnies”) who were armed to the teeth.

Based on the non-fiction book by Mark Bowden, this film is the relentless account of that mission gone awry. And I use relentless because producer Jerry Bruckheimer has finally found a way to stretch Steven Spielberg’s horrifying and masterful recreation of the Normandy beachstorming in Saving Private Ryan into an entire film. He upped the ante (in time, if not quality) in Pearl Harbor to 40 minutes and here, into about 100. Director Ridley Scott has managed to bring a little more respect back to the plight of the soldiers in harms way here, but shies away from just about everything else from character to politics.

Press notes and interviews with the cast and crew have been very adamant about their attempts to avoid all the cliches of the war movie. No undue heroics or perfectly timed quips. But even a cast of characters based on real-life heroes still find their way lumped into the colorful collection of war hero cliches. There’s the newly-appointed leader whose never led troops before, the gruff commander veterans, the desk jockey getting his first stench of battle and the quirky but tough, brooding yet tells-it-like-it-is at the right moment guy who also gets to conveniently have his Rambo moment by blowing away a single guy on a jeep with an RPG missile.

To strip characters down to the bare essentials of a personality may effort Scott into creating the documentary-like feel he may have wanted to convey to audiences, but by casting the virtual whos-who of Bruckheimer regulars puts a familiar face to the pain, thus making us identify with the actual actors rather than the real fallen. Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor), Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge), Tom Sizemore (Pearl Harbor, Enemy of the State, Saving Private Ryan), Eric Bana (Chopper, the upcoming Hulk), William Fichtner (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon), Ewen Bremner (Pearl Harbor), Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff), Kim Coates (Pearl Harbor), Ron Eldard (Deep Impact), Jason Isaacs (Armageddon, The Patriot), Zeljko Ivanek (Hannibal), Jeremy Piven (Serendipity), Richard Tyson (Three O’Clock High) and Brendan Sexton III (Boys Don’t Cry) are those faces. Sure, Hartnett squints again and Sizemore shouts a lot, but an impressive cast to be sure, but one more deserving of a well-rounded script than a cowboys-and-indians-like reunion party with Bruckheimer.

I never thought I’d see the day when I said a movie had too much action. Black Hawk Down has action to spare. It just doesn’t spare the audience. The final 100 minutes of the film rarely slows down for more than a few minutes of quiet time that isn’t very well spent. Even a one-sided debate on the politics of our involvement in this situation would be something to think about, regardless of if we agreed or not. Politics are a part of any skirmish and while its commendable to always get a soldier’s point-of-view, by turning this story into an in-your-face action picture, there’s nothing else to grasp onto other than the many action sequences. Thus, we become a part of the sort of video game mentality inherent in just about every “war” since Vietnam. Think Ikari Warriors or Metal Gear in Somalia.

But action sequences they are and the majority of them are pretty terrific. From the outset of the mission at the 45-minute point to the first signs of trouble to the panic fighting that ensues for a full day, our eyes and ears are involved. An effort of three stranded soldiers to get back to their crew never reaches the level of suspense I think the filmmakers intended and nearly becomes comical, but a nighttime raid and the plight of a boxed-in pilot are effortlessly stirring.

Black Hawk Down was originally scheduled to open as one of Spring’s big titles on March 1. In October, after some successful test screenings and our impending charge against Osama Bin Laden, it was moved up to January and subsequently slated for some NY & LA screenings to qualify for Oscars. (Coincidentally enough, Bin Laden was actually responsible for training the enemy forces portrayed in the film.) Perhaps so rushed was the release, that the print I saw three weeks before its Dec. 28 coast premieres, didn’t have a finished music track, instead using selections from John Williams and Hans Zimmer’s theme from The Thin Red Line.

My question is whether or not this film would be as highly regarded by some as it is, if it DID get released in March. Can a critic be influenced by a late-end release just because they know this is when the studios bring out all their top-notch award-worthy flicks? Would it be remembered come Oscar time nearly a whole year later or would it be dismissed as just another Bruckheimer extravaganza? Considering that Jerry’s chances of a Pearl Harbor nomination this year is none to slim infinity, the late positioning of Black Hawk comes as no surprise. It certainly would make an interesting experiment in time travel though.

Black Hawk Down is still a well-made picture. Where it lacks the insights of Private Ryan or even Three Kings, it makes up for in slickness. As close to recreating the actual events as the filmmakers were obviously trying for, we are still reminded that we are watching a movie, if nothing but for the virtually I-dentical formation and camera movement of the incoming helicopters from Apocalypse Now. That was a film also surrounded by a real backdrop, but still rooted in fiction, a movie director Francis Ford Coppola said “was Vietnam”. Black Hawk Down may be Somalia, but it still feels like just a well-made action picture.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5688&reviewer=198
originally posted: 01/17/02 18:23:53
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell not bad but the book is alot better 3 stars
11/18/14 kenner Best war film since Saving Private Ryan 5 stars
10/04/14 zig zag One of the best war movies ever made 5 stars
8/18/12 edutra SHIT. UNWATCHALBE. 1 stars
7/23/10 bagwell5 Should have won Best Picture for 2001. An intense & exciting war film. 5 stars
6/21/10 RLan If you like action films, this is for you. 3 stars
4/09/10 Ricky Beautiful but sad story 5 stars
12/11/09 Caleb Bateman Best movie ever, i totally love the game also, based off a very true story! AWSOME 5/5 5 stars
10/22/09 Rachel Very good story line. Would recommend everyone to watch it. 5 stars
8/14/09 Jeff Wilder Good "you are there" war picture. 4 stars
6/08/09 bw Solid War movie and historically accurate 5 stars
4/16/09 melodi One of my favorite movies...It is awesome. 5 stars
3/24/09 Craig Movie was great. Not many people know that super 65 actually went down 5 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
9/16/08 The Prince of Phenominal the greatest war movie of all time 5 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT BEAUTIFUL IN ITS UGLINESS AND SAD IN ITS BEAUTY 2 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK If Star wars were more like this, then i would like it. 5 stars
11/28/06 Chris Sweet, Awesome, Exellent 5 stars
9/21/06 Alyssa Hale Excellent movie! The actors were great! 5 stars
8/20/06 Wayne Read the reality at: www.socialistworker.org/2002-1/395/395_08_BrendanSexton.shtml 3 stars
7/21/06 Indrid Cold Ever since Saving Pvt Ryan, all war movies have had that stark, documentary look. 4 stars
5/26/06 Poof Goriest war film but it's still good 3/5 4 stars
5/22/06 Agent Sands *I don't think the movie has enough action. Just not enough. *(sarcasm) 4 stars
1/15/06 Frank Rountree I'm a retired U.S. Armed Forces veteran, and this movie was awesome! Stand up and salute! 5 stars
12/02/05 cooler one of the best war movies ever made 5 stars
11/19/05 Moctezuma A knockout 5 stars
11/15/05 Adrian Fucking awesome in every way. Incredible action and themes all play out perfectly. 5 stars
8/27/05 Monster W. Kung A disgusting propaganda PIECE OF SHIT. 1 stars
8/22/05 Alyson Generally I don't like war movies but Ewan is hot<3 3 stars
8/17/05 ES Good action but like the whole history behind it, a little too 'yeah we're the USA!' 3 stars
8/07/05 nads the military is for rednecks and suckers. 3 stars
8/07/05 Phil Slick aesthetics yet gritty, this movie really makes you realise the horrors of war. 5 stars
6/22/05 R.W. Welch Starkly realistic account of ambushed mission. A sharply directed nail-biter. 4 stars
6/18/05 ALI F A GREAT SHOWING THE RAHGERS AT THEIR BEST 5 stars
6/10/05 Lucy Not only is Ewan in it but Josh is too! Score!! 4 stars
6/07/05 CJ saving private ryan and this=best war movies of all time 5 stars
5/03/05 Ronin one of the best modern warfare movies. Maybe even the best 5 stars
4/18/05 Jimmy Best war film of all time and definatly must be seen 5 stars
3/12/05 Connes A very good movie 4 stars
12/25/04 DAN Great 5 stars
12/23/04 Matt F. Visually perfect 5 stars
10/30/04 Shawn good movie 5 stars
10/08/04 Vince Amazing cinematography, but hard to tell one character from the other... 4 stars
9/28/04 Archanist_101 WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT 'CS'??????????????????????????????????????????????????? 5 stars
9/22/04 CS could it get any worse? 1 stars
7/30/04 DJ Wtf? Pwnt. 5 stars
6/27/04 cinkcool great movie 5 stars
6/21/04 Kenyon Foxworthy The score is great 5 stars
6/06/04 c this film is great.It really shows you what war really is about 5 stars
3/19/04 Nannette This movie is a real tear jerker. It was a wonderful movie 5 stars
1/30/04 R Very good, displays the fortitude of soldiers 5 stars
11/24/03 Carl Handratty Slyder, did you ever study basic grammar? Doesn't look like it-"It's sure is..." 5 stars
11/24/03 tatum A technical marvel, but emotionally hollow 4 stars
10/15/03 Nic Barber Movie is good, but should be more like book! Dissapointing. 2 stars
5/19/03 Kay Its really good its show the truth to war both ups and downs 4 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon What the film misses seems to simultaneously enhance its purpose. 4 stars
1/25/03 malcolm nice action and effects. zero plot and characterization 3 stars
12/30/02 Chowie-Pie Wow, this movie was very very good, but heartbreaking to think that it's all true 5 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Jingoistic, context-free garbage. 2 stars
12/22/02 3man Superb movie. Makes you feel like you are there. 5 stars
10/22/02 cinkcool Its not about the gore or the action, its about the conflict and what happened. 5 stars
10/19/02 Connoisseur the gore here makes 'private ryan' look like a disney movie.... bad movie tho 2 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock NO NO NO sludge. 1 stars
9/24/02 Eric Gritty, intense war epic is just brilliant. William Fichtner, Tom Sizemore are standouts. 5 stars
9/19/02 James WHOA!!! Amazing...Hoot, Schtugart, Gordan, Eversman...all extraordinary men 5 stars
8/25/02 Turkish Good stop voting twice, evn tho this is a great movie 5 stars
8/14/02 GOOD one of the greatest war movies ever 5 stars
8/13/02 Bryan Brooks Just don't look for a message or a plot. 3 stars
8/07/02 Obi Wan Whoa! One of the greatest war movies!! Top 5 for sure!! 5 stars
8/05/02 Monster W. Kung An inane piece of crap. 1 stars
7/30/02 GOOD most realistic war movie ever 5 stars
7/24/02 palaboy101 gritty realism 4 stars
7/20/02 sdjfsdkjf better than we were soldiers but not as good as saving private ryan. Very good stuff. 4 stars
7/18/02 Rod Williams They opted for action over character, story over plot, explosions over speeches. Enjoyable! 5 stars
7/15/02 patricia it was to freaking gruesome.i mean does every war movie have to have pointless violence? 3 stars
7/09/02 Eric With its amazing battle scenes and great cast, BHD is the best war film ever. 5 stars
7/04/02 gary vidmar Just goes to show you how Clinton, as a pres., SUCKED ALL ASS! 5 stars
6/22/02 spyguy2 Great amped up action until implodes and becomes monotonous and cliched. Dubious backstory 3 stars
6/18/02 Del Alot of unmentioned Al-Qaeda stuff and most of the starving were Christians... Good, tho. 4 stars
6/15/02 The Bomb 69 completely exhausting, in a good way, Ridley can do no wrong 5 stars
6/10/02 Me Horrible! It has absolutely no plot, script or acting 1 stars
6/07/02 Becky Excellent movie 5 stars
6/06/02 Joe Levy Great! 5 stars
5/24/02 I'm in (L) with a jedi breathtaking 5 stars
5/17/02 viking One of the most powerful war films ever made !!! 5 stars
5/12/02 Matt Much better than the steaming turd that was Behind Enemy Lines 4 stars
5/11/02 Hepta Hooty Overlong collection of sometimes riveting, always tedious, war snippets. 3 stars
4/27/02 Magnum Craphole Quite simply the worst war movie I have ever seen. 1 stars
4/20/02 Phoenix Excellent war film. Gritty and realistic. 5 stars
4/05/02 spacecowboy I loved BHD. I almost cried after realising the futility of war. Great Work. 5 stars
4/04/02 ellie Most graphic, memorable and genuinely brilliant war movie I've seen. 5 stars
4/02/02 girl decient movie but not one I'd see again 4 stars
3/31/02 kjell i loved it 5 stars
3/31/02 benjamin i loved it as much as saving private ryan 5 stars
3/30/02 Film Guy What a Fucking great movie 5 stars
3/27/02 Subberke this movies gives a view of what does people went through !!! it's the best movie in years! 5 stars
3/22/02 daniboy seriously overrated 2 stars
3/19/02 Magnus Persson You said it - fucking awesome! 5 stars
3/11/02 spaceworm An arcade game, complete with disposable bad guys and loud noise. ACKACKACK! 3 stars
3/08/02 pete pls reveiwer eric, read the book. the 'war is hell' comment is quite empty given the facts. 4 stars
3/07/02 sumixam Grows on you - don't expect to be as shocked as 1st time you saw SPR 5 stars
3/05/02 Monster W. Kung Not very good. Has visuals and direction, but lacks intelligence. 3 stars
3/04/02 Doug Unbeleivable? Get a fuckin clue. Im in the Army, nothin was unbelivable. 5 stars
3/02/02 Derek Cool 5 stars
2/28/02 Jimbo Well made film but pretty depressing overall. 3 stars
2/27/02 Shams Huque After LOTR, the best film of the year! 5 stars
2/26/02 rebecca best war movie of the year, thats saying somthing! 5 stars
2/26/02 Bueller Straightforward, unblinking, mostly historical account. Reminiscent of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" 4 stars
2/25/02 ownerofdajoint oneofthebestwarmoviesinthelasttenyearsunforgettablerivetingandunnervingmakesyouangry 5 stars
2/23/02 Alex Brimsfield PERFECT...ABSOLUTELY AWESOME 5 stars
2/23/02 Francis unremittingly grim, boring, cliched, cardboard, unbeliveable, and failed attemps at humour 2 stars
2/23/02 Shrike Intense and utterly relentless. 5 stars
2/21/02 Matthew Smith after the first half hour, the film turns chaotic and never stops 5 stars
2/21/02 mwildema good stuff 5 stars
2/19/02 Linda (very middle-aged) Heartbreaking, tragic, poetic, complex cinematically & politically, painful, anti-war 5 stars
2/19/02 Piz very engaging and exciting, different and unique, yet very Bruckheimer-ish 5 stars
2/18/02 Jim Intense 4 stars
2/18/02 Superdave This movie should be required study at Military acadamies and colleges. First Rate! 5 stars
2/17/02 Clarance Better than Saving Private Ryan... Horrific war scenes combined with touching reality/truth 5 stars
2/16/02 ToneCapone Too bad the Marines didn't spearhead the mission, none of that would've happened. OOH RAH 5 stars
2/14/02 The Boy In The Designer Bubble The starving Samolian women looked like fashion models. 3 stars
2/14/02 Ziggy Stardust no serious questions are raised or no deep emotion... just horrific war scenes n' such... 5 stars
2/14/02 JB Very expensive, very explosive, very simple, very boring. 2 stars
2/12/02 elizaveta It was traumatizing - unsurprisingly. Also, I had a hard time following who was who 3 stars
2/12/02 Doug Very good. The movie was overall acurate, only caught someone calling a sgt sir once :) 5 stars
2/11/02 the Grinch Aiken, try actually seeing the movie or reading the book...U.S. used as U.N.'s heavies. 4 stars
2/10/02 Nicole Great movie, a far cry from Pearl Harbor thank god 5 stars
2/09/02 Vincent Kennedy Good movie, character development would have made it a great movie 4 stars
2/08/02 Suzz Film raising important questions about sending men into war 5 stars
2/08/02 jawsboy24 Not as good as I hoped. Corny, but stylish. Not worth 4 stars, but worth a look 4 stars
2/07/02 Chris Mallari Black Hawk Down, the movie 4 stars
2/07/02 Monday Morning Who needed a script...it was all gun battles. As shallow as they come & way too long. 2 stars
2/05/02 Aiken Drum 18 Americans dead to 10,000 Somalia's. Lets make the U.S out as the good guys? er... 1 stars
2/04/02 necronomIV Very "incomplete" film....doc on History Channel much better 2 stars
2/02/02 Dave T Another propaganda film depicting US soldiers as heroes, when they were really curled up in 1 stars
1/29/02 Phil M. Afficianado Realism and chaos that leaves you limp. Have a stiff drink afterward; it blitzed my brain. 5 stars
1/28/02 TimmyTomorrow Another movie that tells the non-military person that war is hell. 3 stars
1/28/02 Mister Char This movie is a piece of patriotic crap, why can't Ridley Scott make another Gladiator 1 stars
1/27/02 jack who can hate this 5 stars
1/26/02 Steven Young Informative but not at all entertaining.. movie should have been an hour shorter. 2 stars
1/24/02 David A. Unless U. S. security is at risk, stay the !!**?*!@!$?!! out of other countries' wars. 4 stars
1/24/02 Julia A sensless waste of time and $. An excuse to enflame the hurt pride of US. 1 stars
1/23/02 Randy Gives the audience an idea of what hell is really like. 5 stars
1/23/02 nkf seeing this movie helps me appreciate what our guys overseas face 5 stars
1/22/02 lisa this was one of the best movies i've seen since saving private ryan 5 stars
1/22/02 Stephanie Realistic viewing of the many flaws in war. 4 stars
1/22/02 Crystal BEST MOVIE!!!!! A MUST SEE!! 5 stars
1/22/02 kishuta Powerful. War is Hell and this shows it like it is. 5 stars
1/21/02 travis i love it.it even made the large crowd walk out quiet at the end 5 stars
1/21/02 Anus Is it me or did he white people in the cinema cheer when the black guys got it in the end? 4 stars
1/21/02 The Man Brutally intense. Like the opening of Saving Private Ryan for 2.5 hours. Very good. 5 stars
1/21/02 Todd Beamer A must see!! How War movies should be made..all the time!! 5 stars
1/21/02 thejames Only see this if you have a stomach made of steel 4 stars
1/20/02 G-Man My thumb hurts. 5 stars
1/20/02 Glenn Louderback It was like reading the book. One of the best movies I have seen. 5 stars
1/20/02 Rachel Daly beautiful 5 stars
1/20/02 Victoria Laniel Crackin' 5 stars
1/20/02 Tim Ortiz Excrutiatingly real, almost a documentory, it was a great film 5 stars
1/20/02 Bad Kitty good depiction of a historical incident--great movie 4 stars
1/19/02 ajay not as cheesy as I though it was going to be. Oh yeah, Josh Hartnett is an ass. 3 stars
1/19/02 Chris K. This was produced by Jerry (PEARL HARBOR) Bruckheimer. That's not good! 3 stars
1/18/02 Obi Wan A Great War movie, kinda like Hamber Hill w/More action and bigger budget!!!! 5 stars
1/18/02 Todd Best war movie ever 5 stars
1/18/02 Anus Maybe you CAN have too much action. 3 stars
1/17/02 CaMiLlA Awesome movie, saw it twice and will probably see it again soon!! Good piece of work! 5 stars
1/14/02 Cammy This was an aweosme movie, and this is coming from a girl. In no way a propaganda film.:-) 5 stars
1/12/02 Gay Tooth Fairy I wouldnt of minded some drama. I know it really happened. Better than Private Ryan. 3 stars
1/12/02 JB This propaganda was beautifully made but rather boring. All reality aside. 3 stars
1/10/02 A Dissident This movie is a piece of Hollywood propaganda, given the timing of it's release 1 stars
1/03/02 Obi Wan Oh God! This is what Action Flicks should be like, what War movies should be about! Must C 5 stars
12/29/01 Jeremy_Glick Whoa!!! Gimme more of this!!! 5 stars
12/29/01 Todd Makes the battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan look like saturday morning cartoons. 5 stars
12/18/01 Harper Sloane Decent war film and Bruckerheimer leaves the flags and kleenex at home. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Jan-2002 (R)

UK
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Australia
  21-Feb-2002




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