Given Men of War’s blind earnestness, the daddy issues, and John Sayles being one of the credited screenwriters, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was going to be Steven Spielberg’s first war movie. I first read about Men of War when IMDb came around and I looked up Sayles. A John Sayles written Dolph Lundgren movie seemed unbelievable and I never got around to seeing it (I didn’t always have a video store carrying the Lundgren oeuvre available). Men of War is pre-Lone Star so Sayles’s connection could be anything, but the film does try to look like a “real” film, not the straight-to-video one it turned out to be. Ah ha, just looked at the ‘trivia’ at IMDb. It was originally going to be directed by John Frankenheimer, who had apparently decided to find a project with the same opening as Friedkin’s Sorcerer. I’m kidding, but Frankenheimer and Friedkin are reasonably interchangeable.
Failed actor turned director Perry Lang tries real hard with Men of War. He stretches the anamorphic image in moments of great intensity and he also does a lot of slow motion and has a lot of obnoxious fade-outs. His battle scenes are awful, but so’s the rest of it, evening out the experience. Men of War is not a good film. I could only spot one scene with any Sayles style to it and then it was Sayles-lite, like it got rewritten or was just a coincidence (if Sayles’s work was not actually on the produced screenplay). The music’s similarly awful, but worse. It’s a rip-off mostly of the Predator score (Lang would have done better if he’d been ripping someone off).
Men of War does have a few things to offer, however, which is an achievement considering it’s worse than the last bad film I saw (Battle for the Planet of the Apes). B.D. Wong is fantastic. Dolph Lundgren has visibly–in the film–become a good actor, but his role’s so flatly written, it’s not really a good performance. Tim Guinee is good, so’s Tom Wright, both as some of Lundgren’s mercenaries (oh, the film’s about a mercenary who decides to help the innocent people he’s been paid to hurt). Don Harvey, who isn’t in it enough, is decent and would be better if his role were better written. Same situation for Tony Denison. Men of War’s biggest failing, besides the direction and writing and some of the other acting (Catherine Bell is unspeakably bad and there are a number of other lame performances), is it’s lack of sense of humor. If it knew how to laugh, it’d probably be a little better. It’d be hard though, since it’s so visually uninteresting. But I’ve finally seen it… even though I’m no longer trying to see all Sayles’s produced screenplays.
But B.D. Wong is great.
Directed by Perry Lang; screenplay by John Sayles, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, based on a story by Stan Rogow; director of photography, Ronn Schmidt; edited by Jeffrey Reiner; music by Gerald Gouriet and Paul Rabjohns; production designers, James William Newport and Steve Spence; produced by Arthur Goldblatt and Andrew Pfeffer; released by Dimension Films.
Starring Dolph Lundgren (Nick Gunar), Charlotte Lewis (Loki), B.D. Wong (Po), Tony Denison (Jimmy G), Tim Guinee (Ocker), Don Harvey (Nolan), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Blades), Tom Wright (Jamaal), Catherine Bell (Grace Lashield), Trevor Goddard (Keefer), Kevin Tighe (Colonel Merrick), Thomas Gibson (Warren) and Perry Lang (Lyle).