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"The Hurt Locker"

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Written by Mark Boal
Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  7/12/09


I don't know if a movie has been as intense as "The Hurt Locker" in a while, at least amongst flicks I have seen...your stomach will really be in a ball after watching this puppy!

Based on a screenplay by journalist Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker" follows three soldiers during a 40-day stretch in and around Baghdad as they try to survive in time to fight even more missions for their commanders in the U.S. Army.  Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and a Specialist named Eldredge (Brian Geraghty) were working with a staff sergeant and bomb specialist named Thompson (Guy Pearce) until Thompson was killed in an action that opens the film's events.  Enter Staff Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner, from "28 Weeks Later" and the antagonist from "S.W.A.T."), a wild man who has defused nearly 900 explosive devices for other units and has been brought over to lead Sanborn's outfit on the front lines.  At the end of this forty days, all three men can go home to their lives if they can just stay alive long enough to see the day.

Director Kathryn Bigelow's film career has mainly been an up-and-down wash; her best highlight is probably "Point Break", a film that isn't great but IS legendary in its own right.  With "The Hurt Locker", she has made a film that is well-directed and has a great level of detail in its script even without being a wordy affair.  This is strengthened by tense action sequences and, at times, sheer horror...the film questions why anyone would want to dig around for explosives when you've got such a high rate of failure and such a delicate line to walk between life and death.  Lots of folks die in "The Hurt Locker" but in ways that speak to the film's realistic take on the built-in drama of James' attempts to consistently work under fire to take out bombs that could hurt dozens of people.

Renner and Mackie, the main leads here, are solid; Geraghty is also strong as the group's third wheel and designated low man on the totem pole.  Bigelow and her casting team score big cameos with bit parts by Pearce as well as Ralph Fiennes and David Morse...even Evangeline Lilly from "Lost" appears late in the film, too.  But, these are the kind of cameos that work in films, unlike the strange cameos in the recent "Public Enemies"...none of these cameos feel like they were added for the sake of selling product, or to help confuse the situation.  It just seems like Fiennes was available to fill a part that isn't that important but requires strong work in the brief time he's onscreen.

As the movie goes along, it loses some steam when it is not on the battlefield...war movie clichés have to show up eventually, so when they do--we have to have scenes of boys being boys at the barracks or the natural effect of a non-soldier showing up on the battlefield just when we need a token character to die--they fall a little flat and take away from the incredible screen experience of battle.  And, me being me, I kinda wanted one more action scene, a little run-and-gun shoot-'em-up, not just all of the moments of bombs being defused (or not) in the nick of time.

But, "The Hurt Locker" is strong, and it's just outside of top dog status for me.  Hopefully, Bigelow is getting better with age and Renner gets the chance to show that charisma in front of other similar films soon.

Rating:  $9.50 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 07/12/09