Dave's Rating:


War is swell.

"I ehm going hunting," announces John Travolta in this film's opening moments. He's a Serbian former soldier in the Bosnian war, still simmering with hate for the enemy and a demand for his own version of justice. But his case, however moral, is turned rubbery and comedic by an Eastern European accent that will make you forget the ear-scrapingly bizarre Baltimore dialect he was going for in Hairspray. Compounding the aural silliness is an equally goofy visual gag: a chin-strap beard that will cause you to worry about diminishing global supplies of jet-black hair dye. Good thing he's really good at torturing or nobody would ever take him seriously.

Robert De Niro, an American military veteran, still fit and disciplined, is living out his lone-wolf retirement in a cozy, book-lined cabin in the woods. He does push-ups, chops logs, stokes the fireplace, reads Hemingway: he's 100% vintage flannel masculinity. He was in Bosnia during the '90s, too, and is the object of Travolta's torchy grudge. Vengeance is coming for you, Bob.

Somehow, Travolta finds the isolated cabin and the bloodmatch begins. For the next 90 minutes it's [here come all the spoilers, or, as I like to think of them, selling points of the latest must-see bad movie] a grunting parade of chasing and capturing and carving and monologuing, both pre- and post-torture. Lots of torture. Steel rods shoved through calf muscles, Dawn-Weiner-in-Hostel 2-style upside-down hoisting, wound-salting (and also wound-lemoning), face-archery; it's a lot, so much so that De Niro, finally, exhausted, says, his own Southern accent dripping like a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's, "Whyncha just shoot me insteada this runnin' around hidin' bull$#*!"

But that can't happen. The movie would be over. And Travolta's Serb wouldn't be satisfied at all. "I vant rrreal confession!" he shouts before taking a break to ruminate on the existence of God and human evil. And then De Niro clocks him with a stick. "It is Murphy's Law, no?" ponders Travolta, as he finds himself strapped to a torture table, trapped in his own game, mumbling unintelligibly.

And that's it. Two aging stars fighting and gouging, its point about the futility of vengeance and the human loss of war subsumed in a spray of voyeuristic gore. It's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? + superviolence + extreme toupee weirdness, a diorama of Universal Soldier-level physical stamina and tangential Johnny Cash name-checking -- repeatedly -- for whatever sort of manly authenticity cred it can afford the finished product. And then it ends with a blowjob joke. Seriously. De Niro tells a blowjob joke. Travolta's response: I don't get it."


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