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In September 1971, a platoon of recruits arrives in Ft. Polk, LA, for infantry training before leaving for war. The final week takes place in Tigerland, a swamp similar to Vietnam. Jim Paxton has enlisted; he wants to experience everything and write books later. He befriends Roland Bozz, a cool Texan with a gift for getting into trouble and for helping misfits get discharges. At least one sociopath in the platoon hates Bozz, even as the sergeants grudgingly recognize his leadership abilities. As the platoon heads into its week in Tigerland, Paxton's body gives out, Bozz makes plans to go AWOL, and the sociopath gets hold of live ammo. Is the Louisiana swamp more dangerous than the DMZ? Written by
Not exactly original but an engaging drama based on real life experience, gritty atmosphere and some good performances
Tiger Land is a tough training camp for the US military. In 1971 it is the final step before the squads go to the war in Vietnam. In training before Tiger Land, one squad of young men is joined by troublemaker Roland Bozz, who continues his military trend of dissention and insubordination. However, his actions do not just affect him and he starts to change his ways slightly, but the stresses and the potential for death in Vietnam push all the men to breaking point.
Sold as a war movie, this film is more like the first half of Full Metal Jacket than a full on war movie set in a combat zone. As such it plays more like a drama than any sort of antiwar movie or outright thriller. The focus of the film is the character of Bozz as told from the biographical point of view of Paxton. The events of the film are pretty predictable for anyone who has seen this type of film before - the internal fights, the crazy soldiers, the domineering sergeant majors etc. However it still manages to be enjoyable and entertaining even if it never really feels original or new. It is a pretty nondescript film with no specific edge on it - and that is part of the reason I think it really didn't do that good business when it was released here in the UK. It relies very heavily on the characters to keep the audience involved in the story and preventing it being seen as just a collection of old ideas; this aspect is helped by the fact that it is drawing on original material, experiences and people.
A much bigger part of the characters being engaging is the playing of them by the cast. Farrell is the lead actor and is miles ahead of everyone else. This film is one of many that made him the star he now is, and he does deserve it off the back of this and he is really good here - coming across as likeable and difficult. Outside of him, everyone plays well but are generally in their various stereotypes; aside from Farrell, Collins is the standout role - too often seen playing gang bangers and such on TV cops shows, he delivers a solid character and presents a believable breakdown over the course of the film.
Keeping my habit of never paying to see an Schumacher film since Batman & Robin took the last faith in his talent, I waited for this to come onto TV. I was surprised however to see that Schumacher managed to do the film without spoiling it - in fact he came across as rather able! He uses mainly handheld cameras and delivers a gritty feel to the whole film that is fitting to the material. I hate to admit it, but he actually did a reasonable job here and he has now done a couple of films that he hasn't ruined in one way or another! I may have to change my mind about not paying for his films - well, maybe not.
Overall this is a rather undistinguished film but one that is enjoyable as a character driven drama, trading on the usual clichés of the genre. It goes where you more or less expect it to but it goes there and takes you with it. Farrell makes a good leading man and on this evidence he is worthy of leading man status where he has good support.
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