director: joel schumacher
colin farrell, matthew davis

. Once upon a time, war films were the most mainstream, patriotic, conventional kind of movie a studio could make, but things have changed. (Note: This review was written, alas, eight months before the release of Pearl Harbor. Events, as they say, have overtaken me.)

You only have to compare, say, Sands of Iwo Jima to Platoon to understand the change. If a director wants to make a “serious statement” these days, he makes a war film. Vietnam is usually the setting of choice, but World War Two will do, for instance, if you’re Steven Spielberg, and can afford the extras.

Director Joel Schumacher’s reputation as the essence of mainstream Hollywood was made with films like Dying Young, The Client and two increasingly loud, incoherent Batman sequels. Never a critically-loved director, he’s nonetheless respected -- or faintly praised -- for his skill and marketability. If you didn't feel like being so charitable, you'd say that a career like Schumacher's personifies everything that's wrong with Hollywood today. 

His new film, amazingly, might force you to re-think your opinion; you’d have a hard time connecting the Joel Schumacher of St. Elmo’s Fire or The Lost Boys to Tigerland.

At an army boot camp in the Louisiana swamps, a charismatic misfit named Bozz (Colin Farrell) is trying as hard as he can not to go to Vietnam. Somehow, his talent for fighting army authority end up getting every misfit in his unit discharged except for him.

It's a compelling and convincing work in an overworked genre (the anti-war film). Grainy, hand-held camera work and offhanded but excellent performances give Tigerland a documentary look, a kind of polished roughness that couldn’t be further from Batman Forever.