Picks and Pans Review: The Iron Triangle

updated 03/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Like the protagonist of the rereleased Lawrence of Arabia, Ho of Southeast Asia is one conflicted guy, but not conflicted in such a visually interesting, literate way. Only 17, Ho is a Vietcong sniper committed to killing Americans. But he is also conscience-wracked. Ho is played by Liem Whatley, 26, who, according to his studio biography, was born in South Vietnam and moved to the U.S. with his mother and American stepfather in 1975. This is his first movie, and he acts in Kabuki style, over gesturing like mad and issuing declarations rather than reading lines. The film's writers, director Eric (Marvin and Tige) Weston, John Bushelman and Larry Hilbrand, have the Vietnamese talk in English—usually idiomatic English with lots of "Yeahs" and "Sures." At times, though, they lapse into a dialect right out of the Clouseau Institute for English as a Second Language. "You place your anger wrongly," Ho tells a fellow soldier. Meanwhile, Beau Bridges is learning unhappy truths about war on the U.S. side. Too old at 47 to be playing an infantry captain, Bridges compensates for his age with substantial acting ability, but he can't do much with the script. He has a tendency to drift off into philosophizing, though, so when he is captured by the VC and ends up in Ho's custody, he and Ho naturally hit it off. This leads to an ending that piles the improbable upon the implausible. Bridges wears a 25th Infantry Division patch in this film, as did the American troops in Platoon, whose director, Oliver Stone, is a 25th Division veteran. That coincidence inspires a tendency to compare the two movies. Such comparison makes The Iron Triangle seem a well-intentioned, dull, artificial attempt to look at the war from a different perspective. (R)

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