Picks and Pans Review: The Lords of Discipline

updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

No, this is not a sequel, not Another Officer and a Gentleman, even though David Keith (Richard Gere's heartsick pal in AO & AG) stars. He plays a morally upright, politically liberalized cadet at a Southern military academy who is entrusted with safeguarding the campus's first black student. (The film, set in the mid-'60s, is based on Pat Conroy's novel of the same name.) Keith soon learns of a menacing secret society of cadets who get off on terrorizing the black, apparently with the acquiescence of the academy's power structure. It's not a bad premise. But problems crop up: The endless ranting and hazing, cute in Private Benjamin, unsettling in An Officer and a Gentleman, here is just plain excessive. It seems time to declare a movie moratorium on demeaning tactics intended to instill discipline and honor. Another question: Why are no girls in the plot? The audience needs them in a grim flick like this almost as much as the cadets do on weekends. As for the black cadet, played with laughable stoicism by a Golden Gloves fighter from New York named Mike Breland, if he is really a test case in early-'60s civil rights in a lily-white Southern military institute, where's the NAACP? The courts? The media? How could the masked thugs carve their logo in the kid's back without at least making Walter Cronkite's news? A film like this demands some hint at least of reality to make the melodrama seem plausible. Keith handles his role well, but maybe it's time he should be discharged into a film which could stretch his considerable talents. (R)

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