Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Tim
Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Taye Diggs and Brian Van Holt
Directed by John McTiernan
John Travolta needs a hit.
After duds like DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE, SWORDFISH, LUCKY
NUMBERS and let's not forget BATTLEFIELD EARTH, one would think
things could only get better. Insert someone like Samuel L. Jackson into the
equation and you double your odds of success, right? Unfortunately BASIC
fails to impress in so many ways. The film begins in a chopper flying over
the jungle with Sgt. Nathan West (Sam Jackson) sending his tough group of Army
Rangers into an unknown exercise. Quickly cut to the following day as another
chopper flying over the drop site hoping to find the Rangers, only to come
across a gunfight with live ammo taking place in the jungle. They rescue two
men. One is wounded and placed in the hospital. The other won't talk except
to another Ranger. The rest of the team is presumed dead. Base commander
Colonel Bill Styles (Tim "WINGS" Daly) doesn't feel the assigned
interrogator Lt. Osborne (Connie Nielsen) can get the job done. He calls in
his old buddy Agent Tom Hardy (Travolta), who just happens to be an
ex-ranger. Hardy isn't
perfect by any means. He drinks often, and is trying desperately to shed the
unsavory image he acquired after being accused of bribery some years ago.
Osborne doesn't like him, and doesn't understand the need to have him around.
The two of them begin questioning one of the rescued Rangers named Dunbar.
Hardy succeeds in making him talk, but can't seem to get any details that will
help explain what exactly went on in the jungle. So it's on to the injured
Ranger named Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi with an oddly deep voice). Hardy and
Osborne get much more out of Kendall, finding out exactly what went down and
why. But things don't seem to add up. Dunbar suddenly begins telling a
different tale, and before you know it nothing makes sense.
BASIC fails because it tries too hard to keep us guessing. Plot points
are thrown out only to be dismissed minutes later. Several stories are told
from different perspectives, none of which make a whole lot of sense. Hardy
and Osborne seem to have an angry sexual tension that's just silly considering
the circumstances, and the series of flashbacks the story is told with quickly
become fairly frustrating. The movie is one big mess. It's a retelling of an
event from multiple perspectives that does little more than confuse the
audience. Travolta plays the fallen hero bit okay, but there's no real reason
to care for him or even want him to figure everything out. Jackson is
effectively mean as the overbearing West, but we only get to know him through
certain moments during the flashbacks. Nielsen can't seem to get a handle on
whatever accent it is she's supposed to be doing. Harry Connick Jr. pops up
in a role that could've been played by just about anyone, and Taye Diggs falls
just short of being a dramatically tortured character who once again is seen
only in flashback form.
could've been great had he not been confined to a hospital bed for the
majority of his scenes. The most upsetting aspect of this film is it's one of
those stories that ends in such a way that makes you wonder if ANY of
what you saw really happened. Once you realize what's been going on the whole
time, it's so incredibly ludicrous that you'll probably just laugh. I'm not
sure how this one looked on paper, but it doesn't work on film at all. Even
after giving it a great deal of thought, I'm still not sure I understand what
I was supposed to have seen. Any movie that leaves you this confused has
failed in my book. I think they were going for a darker version of A FEW
GOOD MEN crossed with THE USUAL SUSPECTS, but what they got was a
forgettable piece of garbage. I hate to be this hard on a film, especially
one from director John McTiernan. He certainly could've used a hit himself
after the appalling ROLLERBALL remake. Looks like he and Travolta will
both have to keep trying.
Columbia Pictures 2003
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give BASIC a 4.
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