By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
While "The Walking Dead" tries to take a different look at the war movie by focusing on a group of African-American soldiers, it is less a "Glory" for the Vietnam War era, than a glorification of the Vietnam War.
It presents war as a violent and chaotic experience, but it exhibits a troublesome duplicity that afflicts many war movies: it tries to present war as hell, but also wants to laud the valiant soldiers and ends up indulging in action-film heroics. It's slow-motion displays of military grandiosity look like outtakes from the standard Schwarzenegger film.
The movie follows five marines through monochromatic jungle greenery as they embark on a mission to extract some POWs from an abandoned Viet Cong camp. It's not long before they find themselves in a hot zone surrounded by enemy fire and confusing orders.
At various times, the film focuses on each character who, in turn, explains why he enlisted. The movie then flashes abruptly back to their lives in the States in color-saturated visuals of neon lights, iridescent clothes, and brightly-painted rooms.
The movie strives for a sense of authenticity, but the dialogue is fairly banal and socially conscious to the point where it never seems very real. For example, there mid
is a scene where a soldier's girlfriend complains that he is directionless. She looks into his eyes and explains, "A girl needs to know that a guy will do things for her and have plans for their future." The scene plays like a sitcom when the characters suddenly adopt a sense of counsel and administer popular wisdom with careful deliberation.
In fact, much of the film plays like a sitcom. The filmmakers are so intent on depicting African-American soldiers that they adorn them with a barrage of '70s slang and sarcastic one-liners that sound like the sort of dialogue found in antiquated TV shows like "Good Times" and "Different Strokes."
Along with the clumsy dialogue, the stereotypical nature of the soldiers' characters make the movie even more simplistic. There is the dedicated leader, the wise-cracking cynicist, and the psychotic soldier who confuses military violence with unrestrained carnage. The characters are so predictable that it's hard to imagine them as real people.
In the end, "The Walking Dead" doesn't really make the experience of African-Americans in the Vietnam War seem any different from anyone else's. The movie's smooth-talking nature and prepondence for stunt-filled heroics reduces it to the level of escapist entertainment that ruins its potential for political or social comment.
"The Walking Dead" is showing at Catalina Cinemas, 886-0616.
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