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1989. The Berlin Wall is about to fall, and the world is about to be made safe for the new world order. But outside of Stuttgart, West Germany, at Theodore Roosevelt Army Base, Specialist Ray Elwood of the 317th Supply Battalion is about to find his own cold war turn white hot. Elwood's a lovable rogue, a conscript who's managed to turn his military servitude into a blossoming network of black market deals, more out of boredom than ambition. Officially, there's his day job as battalion secretary to the inept but caring Commander Wallace Berman. On the side, there's everything from selling the locals stolen Mop'N'Glo to cooking heroin for the base's ruthless head of Military Police, Sgt. Saad. When a new top sergeant arrives, with the avowed intention of cleaning the base up, Elwood thinks the new blood is nothing he can't handle, especially after he lays eyes on the top's daughter, rebellious Robyn. But that was before he figured in the $5 million in stolen arms that just landed on ... Written by
The scene in the parking lot where Elwood is tasking Knoll with getting the food for the big cook, was filmed in the parking lot of the US Army Karlsruhe Shopping Center, part of Smiley Barracks and Paul Revere Village housing complex, which had been recently turned back over to the Germans at the time of filming. Directly behind them can be seen the base theater "Minute Man Theater" and while the shot pans around to reveal them entering a building marked "Commissary", this had actually been the base PX at the time, with the Commissary located in a more confined area. See more »
The license plate of Elwood's Mercedes and the other civil cars in the camp are German license plates. But before 2000 the license plates of the US Army were different. Their size and shape were been identical to original US license plates. Numbers and letters were only relevant for administration. Between the pair of letters and the three-digit number the letters "USA" were placed. See more »
[Colonel Berman has been telling General Lancaster about how he found out that he's descended from the Civil War General John Bell Hood, hoping to impress him]
I guess I'm surrounded by people with famous relatives. Isn't that so, Marshall?
I try not to play it up but when I found out I was related to former Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, I guess it gave me a strong sense of my heritage. I've always been proud of my family, but knowing that I was from fighting stock affected me ...
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Darkly humorous look at military life that doesn't deserve it's reputation as `anti-American'
Ray Elwood is a soldier stationed on a base in West Germany. With no war to fight the men become bored but Elwood has enough going on the side to keep him busy, whether selling off excess cleaning supplies or dealing drugs. When he lands two trucks worth of weapons he thinks his day has come, however at the same time a tough new officer, Sergeant Lee, is stationed on the base with the aim of cleaning it up - starting with Elwood dealings.
Of course, we all know that this film practically vanished after 9/11; suddenly America didn't want anything that seemed to be attacking America or the dedicated American soldier. This was unfortunate as the film isn't as blatantly anti-war or anti-American as I had been led to believe. Rather it is a dark comedy that looks at the reality of army life during peacetime. In fairness though it does show the soldiers out for cash, high on drugs and certainly not fitting the image that made Time magazine pick `the American soldier' as man of the year for 2003.
The basic plot makes MASH look like some sort of kids game - where Hawk-Eye made drink in his tent, Elwood cooks coke and deals in stolen weapons. The story works quite well although some of it didn't totally work and some of the characters and action didn't really make sense. It was amusing without being laugh out loud funny, although this wasn't so much of a problem as I certainly didn't expect it to be an out and out comedy. The drama works better than the comedy and it is for this reason it is a better attack on the ideal of the military. The upper levels of the military also take a knock; being shown as focused on rank climbing rather than keeping a sharp military machine well oiled!
The cast is good on the whole - both on paper and on the screen. Phoenix leads the film really well and delivers a likeable character that is still abhorrent enough to be seen as an attack rather than a spoof. Harris is OK but he only has a small role and it doesn't totally fit in with the main narrative very well - likewise McGovern. Pacquin is pretty cool but her character was a bit of a mystery to me but Glenn is well cast and he is able to deliver the goods in a borderline nuts character; only problem with his performance was that I didn't totally understand his character's aims by the end of the film. Both Leon and Pena were good in support and Dean Stockwell has an OK cameo.
Overall this was a good film despite the fact that it had a plot that was a little weakened by the side issues and characters who aren't totally clear in terms of what they're all about. Aside from this the film is pretty entertaining and is actually quite matter of fact in it's portrayal of military life rather than being scathing - coming from Northern Ireland, I have seen all sorts of stuff done by squaddies and am well aware of how true this can be! But to label it anti-American is just plain daft!
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