Heartbreak Ridge | Chicago Reader

Heartbreak Ridge

It's hard to find a few good men nowadays, as Clint Eastwood discovers to his chagrin in this personally inscribed valentine to the rough-and-ready values of U.S. Marines tradition (1986). Unfortunately, it's also hard to find a few good movies, and this isn't one of them. Director Eastwood casts himself as a rummy marine sergeant assigned to shape up a batch of raw, slovenly recruits, and not incidentally reawaken their respect for proper manly ritual. Obviously a rearguard action Eastwood's fighting here, and the whole film seems ideologically forced and out of place, an attempt to resurrect the retentive virtues of Ford and Hawks without the cultural context that gave them expressive strength. Eastwood's performance is self-consciously stiff and mannered (with his raspy voice and ramrod bearing, all he needs is a plug in the neck to complete the Karloffian impression) and the incidental imagery of the mise-en-scene often seems at odds with the rhetorical thrust of the action (pleasure boats loll in Grenada harbor as Eastwood's invaders test their martial manhood against a pathetic handful of Cubans: the foreground posturing says heroism, but the periphery won't cooperate). Maybe Eastwood's aware of the problems but is too busy looking snappy in his Fiji Islands camouflage to pay them any mind. Maybe, but I kinda doubt it. With Marsha Mason, Arlen Dean Snyder, Everett McGill, Boyd Gaines, Mario Van Peebles, and Moses Gunn.

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