Allen Payne, Eddie Griffin, Joe Morton, Roger Floyd
God, they say, is in the details. Nobody ever noted His presence in the marketing campaign. Yet this film, billed as defining the "black experience in Vietnam," is so murky and convoluted that it makes the real war seem a model of clarity and common sense by comparison.
Though himself a former Marine, writer-director Preston A. Whitmore II displays little understanding of the war's tension and terror, but that is the least of his weaknesses. He underlights most scenes and pays little attention to sound quality (a particular flaw with gunfire and helicopters constantly drowning out the dialogue).
The unit in question—a platoon of newly arrived Marines—is assigned to liberate a POW camp but meets unexpected resistance. Meanwhile, Whitmore bewilderingly tries to interweave jokey flashbacks of his main characters in civilian life. Payne, for instance, was a well-educated, repressed militant. Griffin was a libidinous meatpacker in Cleveland, while Morton, the cast's most familiar face,-was a clergyman with a dark secret. The only white characters are racist landlords and bosses, hopelessly un-hip officers and a combat-fatigued psycho (Floyd), who shoots at his buddies and bites off their ears.
What seems intended to be a triumphal ending is undercut by the clumsy exposition of the plot. The definitive movie on American blacks in Vietnam remains to be made. (R)