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"Hart's War"

Directed by Gregory Hoblit.
Written by Billy Ray and Terry George.  Based on the book by John Katzenbach.
Starring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  2/18/02 


War movies have really flooded the market, eh?  Plus, with HBO's "Band of Brothers" series from last year, you've got more WWII violence than you can shake a stick at.

Thankfully, Hollywood keeps churnin' 'em out, and this weekend, I took in the new Bruce Willis film "Hart's War."  I only saw the preview for this one a couple of times, but it looked like it was going to be some kind of POW camp drama, and I just figured that Willis was playing Hart, since he is on the poster.

Shows you what I know.  Willis stars as a captured American colonel named McNamara that is the ranking officer in a German stalag (prison camp) when this guy Hart (played by Colin Farrell, "Tigerland") shows up.  Hart is a pretty boy officer that gets captured while transferring another officer behind enemy lines.  Once he is in the stalag, Hart is forced to play lawyer for a black Air Force pilot (Terrence Howard) that may or may not have killed a racist American soldier in cold blood.  McNamara is chosen to preside over the trial, but we all know that there is more to McNamara's involvement in the trial than he is letting on.

From the opening scene, where Hart tries to escape from his German pursuers behind the lines, to the courtroom case that dictates much of the film's second half, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  And, Willis' career continues to evolve from comedy to action-adventure to drama, and he is good in "Hart's War" even if he doesn't have as much to do as some of his other films.  Farrell and Howard end up carrying the film, and the way the film deals with race is a bit different than normal studio fare such as this.  The best support, though, comes from the German commanding officer of the stalag (played by Marcel Iures), who is not your standard-issue evil Nazi (best played by Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List") but a professional soldier that seems to want the trial to work towards justice, not just a silly conclusion for his personal amusement.  By giving this one character depth, "Hart's War" is more interesting than it ever deserves to be, and it makes for an entertaining two hours instead of a total bust.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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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