While on training exercises in the Louisiana swampland, a squad of soldiers is attacked by local Cajun hunters after they take a few pot-shots at them for a joke. A situation that escalates into a life and death battle, as the soldiers bereft of live rounds of ammunition, try to survive in this alien landscape.
While Walter Hill has never been a director of much subtlety, this macho thriller stocked with hard-as-nails types like Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, and Fred Ward, is pointedly alluding to Vietnam. It may be set in the sickly swamps of Louisiana, but the hidden menace that the Cajun backwater stalkers represent, setting traps amongst the trees, have the ghostly menace of the Vietcong, the sullen atmosphere full of impending death.
This is a war movie, where the war is at one remove. It’s also Hill’s best movie — pulsating, terrifying, with a grip like steel. Following the culture clash dynamics of Deliverance, has these “civilised” soldiers replete with hi-tech weaponry up against the Hillbillies armed only with shotguns and guile. The reference again is direct, how American know-how and armaments were so useless in ‘Nam.
The team of actors effectively reveal both terror under fire, and fragging group dynamics. The film even taking on the quality of a horror movie as the various soldiers of the nine-strong group are picked off one-by-one. It’s genre piece, cleverly alluding the traps of genre
A war film without the war but with some interesting observations nonetheless.