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Directed by Kimberly Peirce.
Written by Mark Richard and Kimberly Peirce.
Starring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  4/6/08

Kind of like last fall's Iraq war drama/murder mystery "In the Valley of Elah", "Stop-Loss"--chronicling the journey of a soldier who comes home from a volunteer five-year run in Iraq only to find out that he's being sent back overseas--will probably make little to no cash, which is too bad, because both films are very good and open your eyes to the harsh reality of how badly we treat those that fight our wars, even if they volunteer for such service and want to start a life outside of the military.

Ryan Phillippe is the poster boy for inconsistency (good in "Crash", ehh in "Breach", good in "The Way of the Gun", ehh in "Gosford Park"), but in "Stop-Loss", he does a pretty good job as our man Staff Sergeant Brandon King, who has served on over 150 combat missions in Iraq.  Sgt. King applies to get out of the Army, and about a month before leaving Iraq, he and his team of soldiers--including two guys King grew up with, Shriver (Channing Tatum) and Burgess (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)--get caught in an ambush that leaves two of his soldiers dead and one other badly maimed.  When King gets home to Texas and walks into the local Army offices to hand in his exit paperwork, he is told that he is being "stop-lossed", meaning that he is being sent back to Iraq to serve another year-long tour of duty...obviously, King isn't a fan, so he goes AWOL and has some tough decisions to make about how he can get out of future Army service.

Directed by Kimberly Peirce, who I think hasn't directed anything since "Boys Don't Cry" made Hilary Swank a star, "Stop-Loss" starts off with a great action sequence detailing that ambush in Iraq; from there, the drama of being a soldier at home feels familiar but the camaraderie among the principal stars is good, so it gets by...but, when "Stop-Loss" really gets good is when we get to see how King, trying to get to Washington to speak with a senator that he thinks can help his cause to get out of the stop-loss order, deals with the situations involving his former squadmates, be it visiting a grieving family, or checking out the maimed soldier in an Army hospital late in the film.  I thought that was some eye-opening stuff, even if you have seen things like it before; it is there that "Stop-Loss" gets its anti-war agenda across, and it is in that message that the film is at its most powerful.

Between this, though, we get a bit too much from so-so performers like Tatum and Abbie Cornish, as the girlfriend of Tatum's character, and an ehh storyline involving the Burgess character's spiral into insanity, which will feel as tired as all hell by the time it's all over.  These two performances don't damage the overall product, they just slow it down occasionally.  The ending also didn't jazz me up too much, but hey--I guess you have to come in with the predictable ending eventually, right?  Overall, though, "Stop-Loss" was solid, but just be sure to hurry--it won't be around long, with summer blockbusters ready to crush the competition.

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 01/08/09