Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Grunt Work

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 25, 1997:  Ridley, Ridley. Why hast thou forsaken me? Can the cinematic genius who gifted me with Blade Runner, lo these 15 years ago, really be the same lame-o who's now cranking out Hollywood dross like White Squall? Can the same director who broke new ground with Thelma & Louise really have churned this tub of lard starring Demi Moore and her $12-million breasts? The answer, sadly, is "yes."

First off, a "G.I." is somebody in the Army. This movie is about the Navy. When you're walking into the theater to see a movie and there's already a major gaff on the poster in the lobby, you know you're in trouble. G.I. Jane follows the story of one Lt. Jordan O'Neil (Moore), a naval intelligence officer who--thanks to the political maneuverings of a woman senator (Anne Bancroft)--becomes the first female candidate for the Navy SEALs. The SEALs are the military's elite special forces team. According to this flick, their training is so rigorous that 60 percent of the trainees drop out. Naturally, everyone is expecting our plucky heroine to fail. Naturally, she encounters much sexism and discrimination among the troops. Just as naturally, she shaves her head, gets buff, perseveres and earns everyone's respect in the end. Big whoop.

The saddest thing about G.I. Jane is that its script (from David Twohy, who scored a winner with The Fugitive and a loser with Waterworld) goes absolutely nowhere. Aside from the gimmick of making its main character a woman, it's a carbon copy of any one of a dozen other boot camp movies: People in fatigues run up and down mountains in the rain, crawl under barbed wire in the mud, climb over walls in the beating sun. If you've seen the first half of Full Metal Jacket, then you've already seen G.I. Jane. Hollywood Pictures has been plugging the hell out this film, setting up two weeks worth of prerelease screenings to generate (presumably) good word of mouth. I can't believe the general populace really wants to see military types being brutalized for two hours. Granted, there's a certain twisted S&M appeal to seeing lovely Demi Moore tortured, beaten and dragged through the mud for 120 minutes. But, c'mon, it doesn't really make for much of a movie.

I will admit that Viggio Mortensen (Crimson Tide, The Prophecy) is pretty effective as the scary, brutal command master chief, barking insults and orders at his battered troops. But once you've seen R. Lee Ermey (a real-deal boot camp commander during Vietnam) do this same shtick in Full Metal Jacket, everything else is downhill. Demi Moore doesn't exactly embarrass herself here, but she knows what side her bread is buttered on. The most memorable scenes in the entire film are two extended music sequences in which Demi a) shaves off all her lovely locks (for shock value) and b) does one-armed push-ups in a tight tank top (for titillation value). Not exactly a meaty acting challenge there. Seeing as how Demi's hit films can be counted on a single finger (Ghost, and that was seven years ago), while her bombs (The Butcher's Wife, Seventh Sign, Mortal Thoughts, Striptease, The Scarlet Letter, The Juror) just keep coming, I have to wonder how long those $12-million paychecks will hold out.

Why a talented filmmaker like Ridley Scott chose to make a generic star vehicle like this is beyond me. Scott's aggressively visual style has here been reduced to a couple slow-mo fetish shots of helicopters cutting through battlefield smoke. G.I. Jane could have been helmed by any Hollywood hack with no appreciable difference. Hell, this film could have been directed by Tony Scott. While his brother Ridley was back in England making a masterpiece out of Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Tony was off in Tinseltown crapping out suck-up summer fare like Top Gun, Days of Thunder and Beverly Hills Cop 2. I guess Ridley got a little jealous of all that Hollywood money after a while and sold his soul to the Devil for a paycheck. Welcome to Hollywood, Ridley. Now go back home to England and make some movies.

--Devin D. O'Leary

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