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Behind Enemy Lines

Who is Behind Them?

By Vladimir Zelevinsky

staff writer

Directed by John Moore

Written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, David Veloz, and Zak Penn

Starring Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, and Joaquim de Almeida

Rated PG-13

A big, fetid pile of putrid crap, Behind Enemy Lines, is a solid one-star movie. The film begins with sexy footage of guns, cannons, and other murder weapons, all scenes stolen from Top Gun. A hero (Owen Wilson) gets shot down over Bosnia, and from here on, we’re in faux Saving Private Ryan territory, only without a genuine craftsman at the helm. The bulk of the movie follows the protagonist escaping an evil Serbian tracker. Oh yeah, there is also Gene Hackman, who would really like to send a rescue team, but can not because he is forbidden by his superior for some unspecified reasons.

The direction is incompetent, but that should come to no surprise from a director whose oeuvre is limited to thirty-second ad spots for Sega Genesis. Shots are out of focus, there is no continuity, and even less believability. For example, the hero miraculously dodges the fifteen thousand rounds of ammunition that his Serbian enemies fire in his direction by running through a barren hillside.

The scenes are all the same: Serbians fire a bunch of rapid shots, the hero runs through the forest, and an evil Serbian runs and aims at the hero, in slow motion. There is either a gunshot or a thousand gunshots, and they all miss the hero, who jumps and continues running.

The musical score plays rousing chorales when the hero is in sight, ominous percussion when the villain is sauntering by, and blasts of hard rock whenever there is a shootout. The cinematography uses the same blue filter, always. The acting is ludicrous: Hackman is obviously embarrassed, and Wilson is trying to open his eyes wider in each subsequent shot. Also, why is Hackman filmed in every scene with the camera first staring at his chest and then panning up to the lower three quarters of his face?

To say that the editing was been done in a blender would be too kind. Ol’ Bessy down in the barn could munch the footage and regurgitate a better movie. The registry of inanity goes on. Whose bright idea was to edit unfocused close-ups into the middle of shaky-cam footage of the hero walking? Whose idea was to have him successfully outrun explosions in the minefield, while all his pursuers are blown to bits? Whose idea was it to have a commercial product placement in the middle of war-torn Bosnia? Who decided to have all evil people drive Japanese cars and all good people American ones? Who worked on these special effects, creating the least convincing explosions in the history of cinema and the most blatant blue screen artifacts?

The climax involves the rescue itself. Two things happen during this sequence. First, we realize that the rescue was not about the man, but about a disk containing photographs that he took. The entire conflict was not about a human being, but about propaganda tools. Second, three American helicopters murder, with the help of machine guns and an occasional air-to-land missile, several dozen Serbian soldiers. The glorious carnage is filmed as an orgasmic rush of images, with fetishizing close-ups on weapons’ muzzles, and slow-motion twitching of dead people.

Ironically, this movie is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America -- for one instance of the word “fuck.”

It is crap. The patriotic public will eat it up. It will make millions. But to the people behind the camera of Behind Enemy Lines, shame on you.