"Men of Honor"
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Written by Scott Marshal Smith.
Starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Release Year: 2000
Review Date: 11/16/00
Long time, no see! As many of you know, I
was on vacation last week, visiting friends south of DC on my annual
southern road trip. 20 hours of driving, down through Richmond,
Charlotte, Fountain Inn, SC and Phatlanta. All good! So, that is
why there was no review last week.
First off, I want to take some well-deserved
space here for my main man, Charles "The Verb" Longer. Chuck
proposed to his long-time girlfriend Teresa Honemond last Friday
night, and they are engaged to be married sometime next summer! For
me, this is probably the best news I have gotten all year.
Congratulations, you two...you can send your congrats along to Chuck
as well, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, so back to the movies! Amanda "Medium
Rare" Dewitt and I took in "Men of Honor" yesterday at the local
cineplex, and I gotta admit, this is one hell of a movie. The true
story of the first black Navy diver, Cuba Gooding plays Carl
Brashear, Navy-cook-turned-master-diver. Over the course of the
film (covering most of his naval career), Brashear overcomes long
odds and plenty of racism in the 1940s and 50s as he attempts to
break the color line and work professionally in his lifelong career
field: the water. Much of the resistance in the Navy training
program where Carl learns how to become a master diver comes at the
hands of his lead trainer, Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro), who is
more bully than racist but he somehow finds a way to roll two into
one. Over the course of Carl's career, Sunday slowly gains respect
for the man that he originally labeled "Cookie" and the two become
unlikely friends over the course of their careers.
I loved this movie, in a way that I had not
loved a military drama in quite some time. The biggest part of this
is the previously-unvisited subject matter. I got into the
descriptions and the underwater gear that the 1950s Navy employed,
because I had simply never seen a lot of that before. American
movie studios have made so many movies about WWII and Navy SEALs and
Vietnam that we forget about some of the other aspects of the armed
forces. And, Brashear's story is very, very interesting. When
Brashear first enters the barracks at the naval training program in
New Jersey, and is the *only black person on the grounds!*, you get
nervous for him immediately. Gooding is very good here, and he
holds his own with De Niro--in what must be his 100th movie this
year!--in their scenes.
Speaking of which, De Niro looks like he is
eating up this part; as the abusive, hard-drinking, surly Sunday, he
does great work cussing out his recruits and peers, and being a
racist bastard one moment and Brashear's biggest fan the next. (The
work here, though, is not as good as Clint Eastwood in "Heartbreak
Ridge", for my money the best set of
military-instructor-cursing-out-students lines in the history of the
movies. Not a great film overall, but I dare you to find a movie
with better lines. I dare you!!)
This was one of the most dramatic,
well-acted, well-paced movies of the year, and it should have had
Oscar written all over it.
That is, until the scenes after Brashear
graduates from naval school begin.
If the director had cut everything off right
there, I think you had a definite Best Picture contender. But,
after Brashear graduates and after a thrilling underwater nuclear
warhead sequence, the movie goes downhill and commits a couple of
fatal errors. First, by showing us the "fall" portion of Brashear's
rise-and-fall story arc, we get to see him face all of his personal
problems and suffering as a result of a near-fatal accident. Then,
the movie gets way too "movie" in its courtroom finale, as it sounds
so high and mighty and the musical score gets louder and louder as
Brashear overcomes more controversy kind of ruined that scene for
me. And, by including all of this last 30 minutes, the movie ends
up being too long and it makes you start asking "when is this thing
gonna end?" to the guy sitting next to you.
So, as it ends up, "Men of Honor" is a good
film but its final quarter makes it miss out on greatness.
Rating: $8.25 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$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
"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 bad...man, 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
"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