Combustible Celluloid
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With: Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason, Everett McGill, Moses Gunn, Eileen Heckart, Bo Svenson, Boyd Gaines, Mario Van Peebles, Arlen Dean Snyder, Vincent Irizarry, Ramon Franco, Tom Villard, Mike Gomez, Rodney Hill, Peter Koch, Richard Venture, Peter Jason, J.C. Quinn, Begonya Plaza, John Eames
Written by: James Carabatsos
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 130
Date: 12/05/1986

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Gunny Pack

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Clint Eastwood's Reagan-era war film is one of his most right-wing affairs. Almost every scene is dedicated to the conflict between the soft, book-educated greenhorns and the combat-seasoned bastion of wisdom (Eastwood), as if it really were so easily defined. And of course, the film is filled with repressed, homoerotic energy simmering just under the surface (just as Top Gun, released the same year, did). It's all pretty simpleminded, but the weird thing is that, no matter what your political standing, it's always fun to see Eastwood trounce somebody with a verbal quip or with a surprise uppercut. And for a war film, Heartbreak Ridge is oddly lighter in spirit than many of Eastwood's other films from this period. Eastwood plays Gunnery Sergeant Highway, a crusty veteran assigned to a pack of sloppy, whiny Marines. But in getting them in shape, he clashes with the beady-eyed pencil pusher Major Powers (Everett McGill). He also tries to win back his ex-wife Aggie (Marsha Mason) by reading women's magazines and learning about sensitivity. The climax comes when Highway's men are suddenly sent into Granada for an afternoon rescue mission. Mario Van Peebles plays "Stitch," the most obnoxious, but also the most promising of Highway's men; he's also a rock "star" that performs in clubs by night and gets into barroom brawls. (In one sequence, Van Peebles wears a Sweet Sweetback t-shirt in honor of his father.) Many aspects of the Gunny Highway character re-surfaced in Eastwood's superior Gran Torino (2008).

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