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Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Harry Connick, Jr., Taye Diggs, Andy Garcia, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi,
Screenplay by James Vanderbilt
Directed by John McTiernan

IN SHORT: Too many surprises makes a good popcorn munching flick. [Rated R for violence and language. 98 minutes]

Just when you thought one twist and/or surprise ending was enough, along comes a movie with three of 'em! Actually, it's a lot more than three -- we have trouble counting higher than that in the dark -- and the never ending run of twists is, at the same time, the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of Basic. The "basic" of the title is something akin to basic training. Six army soldiers and the training sergeant they all hate go into the jungle near the Panama Canal on a training exercise. They do this exercise in the middle of a hurricane and after having finished a similarly grueling bit of training. When all is said and done, two survive the storm and everyone else, including the Sarge, are missing.

Sgt. Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) is the officer in charge of these grunts. West is either the Army's Greatest S.O.B. or the most concerned father figure a grunt could want. A grunt named Pike (Taye Diggs) would vote for the former, if any grunt in this man's army had a vote. West has already tagged Pike as a loser and is determined to make him "quit the program". Neither will make it through the hurricane -- sorry folks, had to spill something -- and only the stories of survivors Raymond Dunbar (Brian Van Holt) and Levi Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi) will unlock the truth of what happened. The problem for provost marshal Lt. Julia Osborn (Connie Nielsen) and her superior officer Col. Bill Styles (Tim Daly) is that Dunbar won't talk and an injured Kendall is a whining weasel son of one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With less than six hours before something happens which would alert Washington and thus be bad news for everyone, Styles calls in the only man he can trust to be discreet, Tom Hardy (John Travolta) a DEA Agent currently under investigation for taking bribes from drug cartels. So, as long as a drug agency is dragged into a story set in South America, you might as well add a local doctor to the mix (Harry Connick Jr.) to try to amp up a feeble attempt to generate sexual tension between the two stars.

Two different soldiers. Two different stories. One investigator who may have something to hide. Who is telling the truth and why is everyone lying about almost everything to almost everyone almost all the time in this movie? Gee, it's to drop the big surprises on you at the end of the movie! We don't have the slightest idea what the whole damned thing was about, since each successive surprise pretty much negates all the continuity that has come before.

Sarcasm is a wonderful thing. So is John Travolta's performance. Nielsen's accent runs all over the map which is about as distracting as the script trying to force a relationship between the pair. Walk in with no expectations and you'll findBasic bo be a basic dateflick. If you look for details, it's a mess.

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


Even when you get to the climax, there's an epilog tacked on that is designed to make your jaw drop. Consider it "huh?" with a capital 'H'. While Basic is a helluva lot of fun, it's still pretty dumb. Perfect for popcorn.

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