Picks and Pans Review: U-571

updated 05/01/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/01/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi

Early on in U-571—a stouthearted but soggy submarine drama set during World War II—an ambitious Navy lieutenant (McConaughey) despairs on learning that he has been assigned yet again as second fiddle on a vessel. He confronts his superior officer (Paxton), who tells him, "Andy, you're just not ready to take on a command of your own." Ready or not, circumstances will soon force McConaughey to take charge of a daring secret mission in which an American submarine crew attempts to recover a German code-encryption machine from aboard a disabled Nazi sub stranded in the Atlantic.

U-571 is rugged, fast-paced and tells a nifty story, but its main characters never come across as more than types (McConaughey is stolidly heroic, Paxton is honorable, Keitel is an old salt) and its crew members barely register. Furthermore, the movie is often confusing because several supporting characters look a lot alike, making it difficult to distinguish in the briny dark just who has been shot or drowned. U-571 was directed by Jonathan Mostow, whose 1997 debut, Breakdown, was a terse, tough thriller. Here he's treading water. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Seeworthy, but not must-seeworthy

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