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Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

 People say that if you don’t love America, then get the hell out. Well, I love America.

— Ron Kovic

Memorial Day was a while ago and I wanted to see the picture that nabbed Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July. I saw this a while ago, but I haven’t had the chance to write the review until now. The movie did win Oliver Stone the Best Director Oscar.

Based on the true story of Ron Kovic (Cruise), a man who comes from an extremely religious background, was a wrestler in high school and wanted to be part of something greater than himself. When a Marine Corps recruiter shows up at the school, Ron almost jumps at the chance of signing up and going to fight in Vietnam.

The action cut to Ron’s second tour when his platoon shot up a Vietcong village, but they accidentally killed women and children. They realize that it was ruse for the Vietcong to have the opening salvo on the Americans. During the confusion of sand and bullets, Ron ends up shooting one of his fellow soldiers, PFC Wilson (Michael Compotaro). Ron tries to confess what happened, but his superiors brush the incident under the rug.

In another altercation, Ron is shot in the foot and then in the upper chest, paralyzing him from the mid-chest down. He resides in a VA hospital in the Bronx that looks like a slum then a place for veterans. When he returns to his childhood home, he becomes angry that people are indifferent about the war and what it represents to the country.

The main reason for this review is for the next LAMB Acting School 101, Willem Dafoe. Willem has a small part as a confidant of Ron, Charlie, when Ron lives in Villa Dulce, Mexico. A place where disabled veterans stays, get drunk and have sex with hookers. Charlie questions Ron about what really happened to him in the war and questions everything that Ron believed in.

I was expected to be blown away with Tom Cruise’s performance. I saw glimpses of it, but not that much to keep me interested in it. I have seen a lot of Vietnam movies. It’s like all of them are blurring into one. This particular story is not that intriguing to me and I found myself bored with it. It seems shallow and it doesn’t explore what happens to a person when they come back from the war.

Judgment: I wish I had some glowing words to say about this movie, but I don’t.

Rating: 6.5/10

Training Day (2001)

Believe it or not, I do try to do some good in the community.

— Alonzo Harris

Director Antoine Fuqua made a big splash with Training Day. The movie was largely ignored when it initially came out in theaters, because the quality of movies in the year 2001 was not that good. It got an extra boost when Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor over perennial frontrunner Russell Crowe. This is a different take on the cop genre, but a good take on it.

As the title suggests, this movie chronicles the day in the life of a rookie cop, Jake (Ethan Hawke) on his first day on the beat. He is nervous about impressing Alonzo (Washington) who might give him leg up in the chain of command.

Jake wants everything that he needs to know about the beat. Alonzo wants to give the noob a reality check about what it’s like to be a real narcotics cop in Los Angeles.

They drive all day in Alonzo’s tricked out black Cadillac. Alonzo’s numerous lessons to Jake are to unlearn what the textbook protocol from the academy. Think with his gut and not with his mind. Not bring his personal life into his job. Have a keen eye on how to handle a shakedown.

The more that Jake gets to know the work ethic of Alonzo, the more he realizes that Alonzo is not a good role model of what it’s like to a narcotics officer. Some of his tactics doesn’t rub Hoyt the right way. If you want to be a good undercover narcotics officer, you have to know what it’s like to be drugs. You have to bends the rules a little bit.

Jake thinks that maybe doing what Alonzo would get him in his good graces, but going against Alonzo might be him killed.

There are two strong performances here from Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The movie deals with the duality of what’s right and what’s wrong. Denzel’s Alonzo character is morally reprehensible that you don’t feel any sympathy for him. This is the biggest flaw about the movie.

Judgment: If you want to see Denzel be villain, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

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