Category: Archive

‘Tigerland’ star Colin Farrell drafted for stardom

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Michael Gray

TIGERLAND. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Starring Colin Farrell and Matthew Davis. 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises.

When a new film called “Tigerland” shows up in New York theaters with a “Ballykissangel” star from Dublin in the lead role, we might well expect to see an up-to-the-minute indie chronicle of life in Ireland’s Celtic cub economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The film is, instead, the latest offering in the Vietnam movie category, based on the experiences of real-life veteran Ross Klavan, and directed by Hollywood uber-hack Joel Schumacher.

“Tigerland” is set in a U.S. Army boot camp of the same name in the swamps of Louisiana, and marks a change of style for a director better known for flash than substance in blockbuster screen versions of John Grisham novels. Fired with enthusiasm for the shoot-from-the-hip manifesto of maverick Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier and his Dogma 95 cohorts, Schumacher made “Tigerland” on location in Florida in four weeks with a budget that would barely pay for the sandwiches on his earlier overblown efforts, “The Client,” “A Time To Kill” or “Batman Forever.”

With no fancy lighting, luxury trailers or hair and makeup people, Schumacher kept things cheap and brisk by using a cast of relative unknowns, among them the aforementioned BallyK regular Colin Farrell. In an ensemble cast of up-and-coming American actors, the young Dubliner stands out as real star material, playing Private Bozz, a sarcastic rebel from Texas who gives as good as he gets when the brass in his unit try to break him.

The film follows the usual boot-camp movie procedures, as foul-mouthed, sadistic sergeants try to crush the humanity out of callow draftees and turn them into ruthless kill-bots. As any FCA veteran with a couple of weeks in the Glen of Imaal or Finner under his belt will attest, this grueling experience brings out the best and worst in the novice soldiers subjected to it.

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Before long several of Bozz’s comrades start to crack, while he himself finds the strength to resist the molding process. Sympathetic to the plight of the hillbilly fatalists and the low-IQ teenage dads in his unit, Bozz devises ways to manipulate the system and get the weaker ones out of the army and back to their families. Soon the mantra of his platoon is “Pray to Jesus or talk to Bozz if you don’t want to go to Vietnam. ” But becoming a reluctant hero for the rank and file makes enemies higher up for the Lone Star anarchist and marks him as a likely body-bag candidate before he even sets foot in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

“Tigerland” is an impressive addition to the Vietnam canon from a director who inspires derision more than praise in the average critic. Shot with hand-held cameras on 16 millimeter film by Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer who gave us the dazzlingly stylish ‘?’ last year, “Tigerland” swivels and jolts through its buddy-bonding tale with a raw dynamism that might leave motion sickness sufferers reaching for their tablets. The film’s characters are better written and acted than in many of the more celebrated works of this war-movie sub-genre, and by focussing solely on the draftees’ training rather than the combat zone, the script has more room to examine the moral issues of what war does to our humanity without the fatal distractions of land-mines, artillery shells and machine-gun fire.

But the question remains as to whether there is really a need for another Vietnam film. Seasoned veterans of ‘Nam movies, having served tours of duty with “Full Metal Jacket,” “Platoon,” “The Deerhunter” and “Apocalypse Now” will report to the box office when the Schumacher film is released, but less committed cinemagoers may well plead shellshock and dodge the draft of 20th Century Fox’s ad campaign. Those earlier films have pretty much said all there is to say about how war dehumanizes those called up to fight, and “Tigerland” adds little more. War is hell, and preparing for war must inevitably be hell too. But Shumacher’s film is worth seeing for the outstanding performance by future Irish megastar Colin Farrell, an original talent in a gifted cast. And if his Dublin accent occasionally leaks through the cracks in his character’s Texas drawl (finally, the shoe is on the other foot, after years of listening to American and British actors affecting lilting leprechaun brogues in Irish films), Farrell has more than enough on-screen charisma to make up for it.

Currently filming on location in Texas, playing the lead character in a new Jesse James movie, and recently seen on the cover of “Interview” magazine, the lad from Castleknock is one actor we’re going to be seeing a lot more in the next few years. See him in his first starring role when “Tigerland” opens Oct. 6.

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