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Basic Review

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While out on a training exercise, three American Rangers, including their much hated sergeant, are killed in a mysterious shooting incident. Top interrogator Tom Hardy is called in to interview the survivors, and begins to realise that "things are not as they seem".

★★★★

Oh, as someone once wrote, how the mighty have fallen. If, a decade or so ago, you had informed action fans that John McTiernan - creator of two of the best octane-delivery systems of all time in Predator and Die Hard - would have turned out not just two bad films in a row, but two films so noxiously awful that the McTiernan brand would be forever soiled, we'd have laughed you out of the multiplex.

But McTiernan has indeed now scored a double whammy of hooey. While the execrable Rollerball may perhaps have been forgiven as an aberration, Basic seals the deal. McTiernan has lost it - big time.

Essentially Kurosawa's Rashomon as reimagined by cretins, Basic plays on the same event as remembered and re-remembered by different characters, all of whom seem to have something to hide. Sadly, it's pretty much impossible to tell the scenarios apart through the cacophonous sound mix, which obscures (probably thankfully) much of the dialogue. And whereas Rashomon probed the nature of truth and Basic's other forbear, The Usual Suspects, dazzled with an intelligent, finely-honed screenplay, this simply gets hopelessly lost in its tedious plot while its cast labours unanimously to deliver career-worst performances.

The only smidgen of anything that might come close to being described as entertaining is Giovanni Ribisi's wildly eccentric turn as a bed-bound gay marine whose fruity accent suggests Clay Shaw from JFK via elocution lessons from Loyd Grossman. But even this tiny pleasure is obliterated, as James Vanderbilt's screenplay doesn't so much just stretch credibility, as strap it to a medieval rack and start spinning the handle. Travolta is not exempt: a rather desultory attempt at his usual cool schtick is punctured by a hilariously gratuitous shot of the bare-chested, post-shower star. (He really is too old for this kind of narcissistic swaggering).

Vanderbilt's hopelessly knotted script piles reversal upon reversal until, when the 'truth' is finally revealed, it's hard to care as it's just another dumbly implausible scenario.

Well, no — not really. It’s difficult to imagine how this could actually be any worse. It manages to spit you out in a poisonous mood somewhere in the hinterland between bored and irritated. Basically bollocks.