A Rashoman puzzle set in a war zone with so many characters pulling so many
deceptions that the victory goes to that part of the audience that can keep
track of it. It seems that when a writer gets into twist mode, there's no
stopping the tricks and, too often, the first victim is credibility.
When four members of a Ranger army unit are found dead or missing on a
training mission, Officer Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) is ready to closely
interview the survivors to find out what happened. But she's headed off by
ex-army ranger, DEA agent Tom Hardy (John Travolta) who is brought in for
that duty, which he quickly demonstrates he has a special skill for,
especially as it concerns Pete Wilmer (Timothy Daly), a man who will only be
debriefed by a fellow ranger.
Wilmer spins a tale of how his unit, trained by a bellowing Sgt. Nathan West
(Samuel L. Jackson), parachuted into a rain forest where agendas and revenge
schemes started to cross things up. He relates that a bomb went off and
West's body was found. Seems like West yelled a little too fiercely once too
often for a member of the squad. But this does little to explain how and why
Wilmer was found carrying out a wounded fellow ranger, Levi Kendall (Giovanni
So, Osborne and Hardy then go to the hospital where Kendall is being treated.
He reluctantly offers his version of what happened that dark and rainy night,
and there are a few discrepancies. As the investigators investigate, the
quagmire of discrepancies deepen until we're into the conspiratorial mud so
far that the final revelation of what happened and to whom is beyond our
Director John McTiernan ("Rollerball") and writer James Vanderbilt have taken
too many liberties with our trust by creating so many red herrings that you
could wholesale them. They leave a trail so slippery that we have every
reason to hold the creators responsible for injuries sustained. Their
"surprise" ending is nothing more than an unsatisfying overspin of
Add to that a patented performance by John Travolta who seems to be eager to
do just about anything these days to keep his name on the marquee.
Dispelling earlier images, he's trimmed down and sports torso muscles which
he displays when the script opportunity arises or when it can be arranged.
Otherwise, he loses no opportunity to display his usual wisecracking animal
of cool congeniality. Connie Nielsen adds some class to the competition and
what credibility there might be in an investigation destined for the rubbish
heap of lost opportunities.
Jackson as a drill sergeant seems to be in his element with all the
boisterous threats he could wish for at his disposal.
This is a whodunit you can sink your mind into. If you can avoid drowning in
the endless stream of revelations, you might just get involved. But it won't
be because of the dizzying artificiality behind it.
~~ Jules Brenner