Basic (2003)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Mar 28, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - Canada , Germany , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Basic easily qualifies as one of the most ridiculous Hollywood thrillers of the last decade. James Vanderbilt's absurd screenplay basically tries to rework The Usual Suspects to fit a military setting, but it gets everything wrong -- the premise is as derivative as it is ludicrous, the characters are ridiculously-drawn ciphers that exist only to serve the whims of the plot and the never-ending series of plot twists go to such preposterous lengths that it turns the film into a self-parody (especially the ridiculous coda). The witless nature of this script is not helped by the performances: Samuel L. Jackson is competent but leans on his familiar schtick, John Travolta blusters his way through the material in a preening style, and Connie Nielsen delivers a stiff performance that boasts one of the worst Southern accents ever committed to film. Harry Connick Jr. and Giovanni Ribisi are equally awful, but at least they are aware they're in a bad movie, so they camp it up. The only really good work comes from Brian Van Holt as one of the secret-keeping soldiers, and that's mainly because he plays it straight. Behind the camera, John McTiernan's direction is slick but impersonal -- and he was definitely asleep at the wheel in the actor-directing department, which is unfortunately what this film hinges upon. In short, Basic is a total disaster that represents the worst excesses of the modern Hollywood popcorn flick. Only bad-movie enthusiasts need apply.