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"The Great Raid"

Directed by John Dahl.
Written by Carlos Bernard and Doug Miro.
Starring Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Connie Nielsen and Joseph Fiennes.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  8/21/05


"The Great Raid"--which will probably be out of theaters by the end of the week, it is making so little money--is a film directed by the same man that did "Rounders", "Joy Ride" (that little-seen but widely praised thriller about two guys being hunted by a psycho truck driver) and "The Last Seduction."  This would all normally mean good things; unfortunately, "The Great Raid" is mostly a piece of fucking shit.

That's because we spend the first 90 minutes waiting for the raid itself, an operation during World War II to rescue American POWs being held in a Japanese camp in 1945.  During this painful set of sequences, we have to watch Lt. Mucci (Benjamin Bratt, who doesn't seem to pick films very well after "Miss Congeniality" and "Catwoman") and his well-trained green troops patiently figure out their situation and then even more patiently move from their base 15 miles from Cabanatuan all the way to the camp.  In between, we meet just a couple of the men imprisoned at the camp, including the ranking U.S. POW, Major Gibson (Joseph Fiennes), as they await their deaths without realizing that a rescue attempt is already in progress.  And, we also get the longing love affair that is standard-issue for these films, between Gibson and a resistance leader (Connie Nielsen, from "Gladiator"), who are trying to get out of this hellhole together after having been apart for the last three years.

All you need to know is this:  the last 30 minutes of "The Great Raid" is very well done, because we are shown the plan that the Marines will use to get the 500 POWs out of camp in great detail, and the mission is pulled off almost flawlessly.  In fact, the reality is that with a very limited force of combined Marine and Filipino forces, our boys took out 800 Japanese soldiers while rescuing every last POW and only suffering 23 casualties.  The raid itself is great...too bad the movie wasn't.

Rating:  Rental


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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