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  1968 Tunnel Rats Battle Beneath The EarthBuy this film here.
Year: 2008
Director: Uwe Boll
Stars: Michael Paré, Wilson Bethel, Adrian Collins, Scott Cooper, Mitch Eakins, Erik Eidem, Brandon Fobbs, Jane Le, Scott Ly, Rocky Marquette, Garikayi Mutambirwa, Nate Parker, Brad Schmidt, Jeffrey Christopher Todd, John Wynn
Genre: War
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1968 and a new group of recruits have arrived at an isolated U.S. Army camp in the Vietnamese jungle. They will be expected to flush out the enemy from the vast network of tunnels the Viet Cong have created under the ground, but first they have to get used to the terrible food the're expected to eat, and face up to their brutal sergeant (Michael Paré), never mind the possible fate at the hands of the opposing army. The sergeant has ordered a prisoner they have captured to be executed, something the troops have little stomach for, but this is merely part of the ongoing horrors of war...

What's this? An Uwe Boll film not based on a computer game? Yes, it's true, for this was a Vietnam War movie based on a story by Boll's regular producer Dan Clarke, although scripted by the notorious co-producer and director. In essence this was his version of Platoon, and looks very similar to that spate of eighties works on this subject, with plentiful swearing, bloody death and a supposedly clear-eyed and regretful look at the conflict. Funny thing with this is that although we get a fairly good idea of the camp and the tunnels, you're less convinced that there is any extensive combat going on elsewhere.

So if this feels rather limited in scope and lost in its own not exactly accurate idea of what this situation was like, then at least fans of this genre will appreciate the conventions as implemented here - or will they? For this lapses into cliché almost from the opening titles where a shot of a helicopter flying over the jungles (not Vietnam at all, but actually South Africa) is overlaid with a classic pop tune of the era this is set in, in this case the oddly not very appropriate "In The Year 2525" by quiz night answers Zager and Evans. Exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a 1987 film on the subject, in other words.

It continues in that vein, with the soldiers a mixture of the idealistic and green and the older, more cynical ones who teach them a thing or two about what life is really like, you know the drill. When most of the characters fall into these two camps it's hard to shake off that sense of deja vu, and when Paré's character at least exhibits a measure of grit that may make this interesting, why then does Boll sideline him for the rest of the story? Would it be because the actor, the closest to a "name" this film had, was only available for a short amount of time's filming?

After a while it's time for the carnage to start, and here it's grows patent that what Boll has in mind is not so much a moving rumination on the war which claimed so many lives on both sides (and he does show both sides), but really a slasher movie with pretentions. So in true Friday the 13th style, the Vietnamese are an unstoppable force who devise a host of ways in which to kill off as many Americans as possible, no matter that we are privy to glimpses of them in their underground lair, to this film they're simply a means to an end, and that end is to show a welter of battle gore at every opportunity. To illustrate the futility of war, the story ends with five minutes of digging, but the lessons here are hackneyed and have been told better elsewhere. For basic army action, however, this may be be what you're looking for. Music by Jessica de Rooij.

[Metrodome's Region 2 DVD has an interview with Boll, behind the scenes footage and a trailer as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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