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Blind Man's Bluff : The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

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This week:


Filthy says:
"Please remove Jon Bon Jovi for four fingers!"


"U-571" is a hell of a lot like a big-tittied porn star. She's fantastic when she's performing, but when she opens her mouth she's about as smart as a colostomy bag, and the same shit pours out. This would have been a masterpiece as a silent movie, but its pretty boy stars are given loose lips and that sinks the ship.

In 1941, the Nazis are sinking all the Brit ships in the Atlantic Ocean because the Allied forces can't figure out their secret messages. So, it's Americans to the rescue. The U.S. disables a German U-boat holding a message encoder called an Enigma (imagine a giant secret decoder ring). A crew, led by barely-there Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey are sent to pose as a German resupply sub and steal the Enigma.

Of course, they run into the Hollywood plot diversion machine, which keeps throwing obstacles in the crew's path, as though they were Apollo 13 underwater. Their American sub is sunk along with most of their crew, and they must now captain the Kraut boat to safety. They are bombarded with depth charges and every depth charge breaks some new piece of equipment on the sub that makes it more difficult for them to get away. For some unexplained reason, they let one German stay alive on the ship and he, big fucking surprise, sabotages the Americans. Needless to say, each obstacle confirms that Americans are plucky and terribly handsome, even when wet. Of course, we win because there has yet to be a Hollywood movie, or World War, where the Nazis win.

There are some poorly thought-out subplots meant to engage us emotional people. Maybe this is the shit that Hollywood thinks brings in the ladies. The primary one is that Paxton did not recommend McConaughey for a promotion because he didn't feel the pot-smoking hippie was mature enough. Through the course of the movie, McConaughey must prove his maturity. Now, if only I gave a rat's ass.

What I liked best about this movie is how it took a true story about some Limeys who stole the first Enigma and turned it into a big-budget flick about plucky Americans. Fuck yeah! You Brits go ahead and keep making "The Beach" and complaining about how us Americans with our braces and big cars are stupid. We'll just go and rewrite the history books while you're busy whining. I hope that this is just the beginning, and Hollywood will now spend millions of dollars rewriting every historic episode of heroism so that it features an American. Did you know that Jesus was an American? So was Napoleon. (Note: don't fucking send me e-mail about this paragraph unless your country invented the Internet.)

The basic plot of this movie is brilliant: steal a piece of equipment from a Kraut submarine without getting caught. "U-571" is at its best when it goes about telling this story in a straight line. It moves quickly, it's tense enough that I realized I had a tight grip on the guy next to me's Coke (he didn't say anything, so I eventually moved it to my other side and enjoyed a free drink). Even though I knew where the story would end, I couldn't always guess how it would get there.

While there are the typical phony diversions, they are well masked by the plot and almost feel organic to the story. Compare this to "Mission To Mars" in which every plot twist was clearly pulled straight out of a screenwriter's ass. It's much smoother here, and the broken pipes and busted machines feel like natural elements of the story.

Toward the end, the story repeats itself. A third scene where sailors sat quietly as depth charges dropped around them was one too many. And the final confrontation with a German Destroyer was too improbable to fit in to the story's otherwise anal efforts to be realistic.

I expected "U-571" to be another pansy Hollywood exercise where they kept cutting away from the sub to show us some broad in San Diego waiting for her man. "Apollo 13" did that because its makers were afraid we'd get bored riding around in a rocket ship. But "U-571" has more balls. There are no broads waiting, just a bunch of men in a tiny metal tube who give off some homoerotic overtones. That's fine, it's ballsy to trust an audience to want to stay with the characters, and it pays off. I got a better sense of their anxiety and what a pain in the ass it must be to live in one of those things. I also suspect that these pretty boys in tight confines will be a hit in the gay community for many years (Buy it on DVD, gentlemen, so the quality doesn't degrade after multiple viewings).

The action sequences are really fucking good and the special effects are top-notch. Normally, I don't give a flying fuck about that kind of shit, but it was easier to dwell on those than worry about the uninteresting characters . Plus, it all pulls together to give the viewer a good sense of the terror they feel underwater.

Outside of the fine submarine plot, the human interest stories are weaker than my piss after a twelve-pack of Schlitz Light. Part of the problem is the pansy actors, but most of it has to do with dialog that was written by screenwriters who have never interacted with other humans and didn't know that people do not always repeat cliches and state the obvious. Huge chunks of story exposition are laid on the screen like horse crap that needs to be stepped around lightly.

The corny dialog makes McConaughey's quest to grow into a mature boat captain totally irrelevant and an annoying distraction from seeing more shit blow up. That the people have their spines removed by the crap they have to say makes the impact of their mission feel pointless. The script treats them like automatons, so why shouldn't we?

Who in their right mind believes that McConaughey, Paxton and Jon Bon Jovi are Navy sailors? Who the fuck cast this thing? These guys are such fucking sissies and girly-men that it's damn-near impossible to believe they wouldn't shit their pants in a real submarine. The casting of such soft-handed wienies undermines any sense of reality that the plot and settings try to create. It's like someone said, "Let's make 'Young Guns III,' but underwater and using a totally realistic submarine setting."

I'm giving "U-571" three fingers. It's a good fucking flick for the action fan, a great flick for gay guys and girls who like wet, strapping young men. But, it's only three fingers for folks who like actors to have personalities.

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