A handful of part time soldiers unwittingly turn a field exercise into a miniature war in this offbeat action drama from writer and director Walter Hill. A group of National Guard reservists are sent to Louisiana on a chilly weekend for war games exercises. None of these weekend warriors seem especially happy to be there, especially laid-back Spencer (Keith Carradine), tightly-wound macho man Reece (Fred Ward) and transplanted Texan Hardin (Powers Booth). While making their way through swamp country, the reservists discover their maps are out of date and they've become lost. Rather than march back to camp and start over, they decide to "borrow" several canoes they've found by the banks of the bayou, which should put them back on track. When a Cajun local catches the soldiers stealing his canoes, Stuckey (Lewis Smith) fires a few rounds in his direction; for the purposes of their exercises, the Guardsmen have been given blank shells, so Stuckey imagines this is a harmless way to scare the man off. However, the Cajun soon returns fire -- with real bullets. After Poole (Peter Coyote) is killed by a shotgun blast, the Guardsmen find themselves lost in a place they do not understand, surrounded by angry men determined to drive the unwelcome visitors off their land at all costs. A taut and atmospheric action film which is also serves as an intelligent and evocative metaphor for America's role in the Vietnam war, Southern Comfort also features an excellent score by guitarist (and frequent Walter Hill collaborator) Ry Cooder.
by Mark Deming synopsis