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Black Hawk Down

Starring Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard
Screenplay by Ken Nolan
Based on the book by Mark Bowden
Directed by Ridley Scott

IN SHORT: A cacophony of numbing violence. [Rated R for Intense Realistic Graphic War Violence and Language. 144 minutes]

If you look at their histories, some things are perfectly clear. Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) knows how to use special effects to shred and spread human body parts all over the big screen. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer makes movies whose aural content leaves us deaf. Set the pair loose to make a war story and watch out.

The story they choose to re-tell is that of an American raid, under UN auspicies as military "peace keepers," on Mogadishu, Somalia. The purpose: to kidnap two high level adjuncts to the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidad, who was interrupting humanitarian aid to the impoverished nation. The political reality: Somalia was a country ruled by battling warlords, of whom Aidad was the most powerful. Unsaid in the film, the man who took credit for training the Somalians that attacked the Americans: Osama bin Laden. (We only know this because National Geograpic Explorer is running on the teevee as we write, and they're telling the story of the Mogadishu battle). Thanks to some carefully aimed rocket propelled grenades, one Black Hawk chopper goes down. From that point on the film becomes a simple "keep shooting until the cavalry comes" flick.

Various groups of soldiers are separated. They must regroup while waiting for rescue. The only problem is that every resident of Mogadishu is carrying an AK-47 and converging on their position.

The faces of the actors you recognize are the soldiers you will be able to follow through the battle that follows. That's all that Black Hawk Down is, one long battle that rarely gives you a chance to breathe or time to do anything more than recoil at the violence. Then again, once you see the final body count numbers displayed on screen at the movie's end, you'll either think that these hundred or so Rangers and Delta force fighters are the most impressive fighting heroes this side of a Jack Kirby comic or you'll scratch your heads and swear that Ridley Scott has done some amazing visual wizardy. Bodies, body parts and rivers of blood splatter and scatter across the streets of Mogadishu and the numbers don't appear to add up. Blame it on the heat of battle. Black Hawk Down was described by another critic as a ninety minute version of Spielberg's Landing at Normandy Beach, Battle Scene One of Saving Private Ryan. We didn't believe the description. We were wrong.

You do get graphic violence, a battlefield operation was our particular favorite, and you may walk out of the theater exhausted and drained from it all. If we were still in our teens, a major shoot 'em up like Black Hawk Down would have been a great time at the movies. Now that we're not a teen, we'd prefer to make some kind of connection with at least a couple of the characters on the big screen. Sam Shepard, as the general in command, is easy. He's not in the thick of it. The soldiers in the heat include Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana and William Fichtner. Take your pick and follow along.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Black Hawk Down, he would have paid . . .


We can blame it on December exhaustion but, unable to give a damn about any of the poor soldiers in the crossfire, we would've preferred to put it on the teevee big screen and cranked up the surround sound.

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