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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters


John Travolta- Samuel L Jackson
Connie Nielsen
Directed by John McTiernan

'...a twisting, writhing snake of a tall tale '

John McTiernan’s new military drama is so deliberately deceitful in its depiction of a bizarre lethal fiasco of a top U.S. Rangers’ training mission deep in the jungle that it utterly infuriates at times. Set partly in the rain forest of the Panamanian Cordillera it seems to focus upon the hatred felt by trainees for their bull-headed, unforgiving, and sadistic black leader Sgt .West (Samuel L. Jackson )

The movie is as assiduously devious and no less playfully misleading than is the obtuse and seemingly callous misconduct of the martinet non-com. who picks on black recruit Pike ( Taye Diggs ) cruelly, thus appearing to drive him to fragging his superior for revenge. That is ‘accidentally’ shooting West in the back on maneouvres.

Enter DEA interrogator Tom Hardy ( John Travolta ) : a seemingly corrupt and drunken former Ranger himself, roped in to get the’truth’ about the fragging from one of the two exhausted and broken survivors of this tragic jungle sortie. Hardy immediately locks horns with Captain Julia Osborne ( Connie Nielsen ) a tough no-nonsense military advocate brusquely pushed to the margins of the investigation by her Colonel ( Tim Daly) Hardy is clearly an expert and a master at his inquisitorial job but he is also strongly suspected of having become far too close to his official prey: the drug-lords and big-shipment traffickers who have always adopted an accommodating, graft-ridden Panama as their direct access route to the drug-happy U.S. populace. Under a cloud Hardy has to prove himself to his superiors all over again. Or so it seems on the surface.

The audience is presented in rapid succession with a handful of confusing flashbacks as to who killed whom in the jungle, and why they might have been driven to do so, Yet none of this multiple mayhem may have happened at all. Every participant has an excuse or two and a half-truth or two, all of which pour down upon us as thickly and as swiftly as do the pelting rain drops in the forest. The events repeatedly re-enacted all took place in a bewildering hurricane-force, one helluva downpour that obscured and heavily veiled almost every second of action once the Rangers absailed down into the depths of the jungle.

Understandably Capt. Osborne is soon all at sea and completely bewildered, unable to trust a single one of her close associates, including a former lover, a physician, who may have been in cahoots with her Colonel in trafficking illegal substances in bulk. Eventually after a series of astonishing revelations that oblige her and us - the gullible spectators - to suspect Hardy of himself being the degenerate drug- kingpin she uncovers the truth about this plot to uncover an even bigger plot. Or is there an even larger conspiracy too?

BASIC will undoubtedly try your patience since it revels in you the viewer having to struggle effortfully to pin down a twisting, writhing snake of a tall tale with only a pair of chopsticks, as it were. If you can enjoy wrestling with a Rubik’s Cube of a film; one that only falls into sync after 95 minutes of juggling and manly manhandling; this contrived exercise in suspense will be worth your while. But don’t expect to be fully satisfied with its pat and preening conclusion. As though Travolta could really be a bad guy and not merely a bad boy ! A bad boy full of mischief who gloats over his cleverness and makes us all feel like suckers. You may actually resent being fooled for so long by the filmmakers.They just love to keep you hanging out to dry like yesterday’s laundry.

© Alex Grant March 2003


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