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"Behind Enemy Lines"

Directed by John Moore.
Written by David Veloz and Zak Penn.
Starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  12/6/01


I talked to my dad this morning while he was driving around the lovely state of New York, and he called only to tell me one thing: 

He had just read my “Bacon of the Month” essay.  And, he loved it.  He loved it so much that he was laughing hysterically throughout.  This is big news to me—one, because he doesn't read all of them, but two, because the funniest guy I know thought it was funny.  Funny was always a big deal in my household, and it has led to my brother, father and I regularly making jokes about whatever we can get our hands on.  For those of you that have met Dave Bell, you know that just Dave's laugh alone will usually have you rolling.  Winning Dave over takes some time, though, with these essays, so I'll take Dad for now and move to the bro later!

Anyway, I went to a matinee this afternoon at the Sony Metreon theater in downtown San Francisco.  The theater itself features the now-standard “stadium seating” arrangement and ridiculously loud Dolby Digital surround sound system.  Blah, blah.  The most important thing about the Metreon is that it has more video games than you can shake a stick at.  And, with a Sony PlayStation store on the lobby level of the theater, you even have free video games you can play before or after a film.  Heaven.

The movie wasn't quite as good as the Metreon.  Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket”, “Shanghai Noon”) stars as Lt. Burnett, renegade Navy navigations officer that has to fly one last recon mission in order to get out of the service.  You see, he has grown sick of waiting around for the action with his longtime pilot, Lt. Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht), so he has put in his two weeks' notice.  (Personally, I didn't know that Naval officers can put in a two-week notice.  I just thought they put their stuff in a bag and blew out of there!)  Naturally, when his commanding officer (Gene Hackman) sends him on this recon mission over Bosnia, he doesn't think that Burnett will get into trouble.  But, he does, getting his pilot killed and sending him on a wild ride through the Bosnian countryside.

Yes, you have heard this plot before.  And, with Hackman dialing it in (clearly he was working harder in last month's “Heist” than this drivel) and Wilson being...Wilson, the acting could be a little better.  What is it, exactly, that got Wilson this role?  Every time I see Wilson onscreen, I expect him to be whining.  Luckily, he does whine a lot in this movie, but you can't tell because of that thing with his nose.  OWEN WILSON'S NOSE IS A DISTRACTION.  It makes you just want to lean over to somebody and ask, “Why doesn't my man get a nose job or something?”  I mean, I can't watch him without thinking about it.

So, rookie director John Moore does a great job of not focusing so much on Wilson, but on a good mix of Wilson running around through the woods, Bosnian soldiers tracking him and following Hackman as he curses his way through the script.  And, Moore's style (not so much *his*, as *MTV's*) keeps the pace lively and a good mix of music keeps you interested.  Also, I'll admit it:  I'm a guy, and I like watching shit blow up.

And, shit blows up real good in “Behind Enemy Lines.”  I would have preferred that Wilson go Rambo and actually return fire every so often, but instead he tries to outrun missiles, tank shells, howitzer fire, sniper shells and machine gun salvos.  But stuff was blowing up, so I shut my mind off and tried to get the most out of the theater's sound system!

The classic Matinee:  Not great, but not bad either.  Good for a Saturday afternoon in a theater, but the film takes advantage of a great sound system, so don't bother with this on video unless you are hooked up at home.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09