|Home of the Brave (2006)
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Christina Ricci
Director: Irwin Winkler
If there’s one underlying theme to Irwin Winkler’s war drama, “Home of the Brave,” it’s that you probably shouldn’t enlist in the military. If you do, you’re bound to end up dead, as an amputee, or just really fucked up. Then again, maybe I’m looking too much into the one-sided politics of the story. One of the characters does re-enlist at the end of the film – albeit for all the wrong reasons, and probably just so Winkler can say that his movie isn’t anti-war propaganda – but at least Americans won’t feel as upset about the young soldiers dying in Iraq then they will about the ten bucks they just flushed away on this farce. Seriously, though. When a drama makes you laugh more than it makes you cry (or at least feel something other than embarrassment for all those involved), there’s something horribly wrong. In the case of “Home of the Brave,” there are about a million different things wrong, and you won’t see another unintentionally funnier drama this year.
Opening in Iraq at the pinnacle of the U.S. invasion, the film tells the story of four American soldiers nearing the end of their eight-month tours of duty. Upon learning that their unit will be sent home within weeks, the soldiers are sent on one final mission to supply medical aid and “good cheer” to thousands of Iraqis. On their way to the village, the unit is ambushed and the troops suffer several injuries – Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel) loses a hand to a roadside bomb, Jamal Atkins (50 Cent, excuse me, Curtis Jackson) hurts his back while chasing down an Iraqi rebel, Tommy Yates (Brian Presley) gets shot in the leg, and his best friend, Jordan (Chad Michael Murray), is killed – but it’s Army surgeon Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson) who suffers perhaps the worst: he witnesses the chaotic event without receiving even the slightest scratch. As the surviving soldiers return back home, they’re forced to put the past behind them, but it’s much easier said than done.
“Home of the Brave” is not only home to some of the dumbest things ever said in a movie (“Did you kill anyone?” “I don’t know, I didn’t stick around to check… it’s war.”), but also some of the worst casting in a long, long time. Honestly, folks, who in their right mind looks at Jessica Biel and thinks, “Gee, I bet she could handle a character with a disability?” Now that I think of it, probably the same casting director who found 50 Cent’s performance in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” so riveting that he was given another shot at acting. Unfortunately, while Winkler apparently found the rapper to be a good enough actor to warrant expanding his role as the angry black man (while at the same time reducing Christina Ricci ’s appearance to a measly two-scene performance), I still can’t understand a damn thing the guy says. You remember that old Weird Al video parodying Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” of him singing with marbles in his mouth? Well, it’s worse than that.
And yet, despite all of these criticisms (most of which should be obvious to anyone before even walking in to see the film), “Home of the Brave” manages to actually get worse. Sam Jackson is relegated to playing an emotionless drone, while no one seems to mention how freaking convenient it is that all five soldiers (Murray’s dead character included) all reside in the same city. Forget convenience – that’s just plain lazy, and while “Home of the Brave” looks to steal some box office business during the holiday season, you’d be better off just staying at home, rather than braving the cold for this.
The single-disc release of “Home of the Brave” is about as dull as the film itself. The audio commentary with director Irvin Winkler, producer Rob Cowan and writer Mark Friedman is about as standard as they come, while an anecdote about how the Defense Department tried to interfere is certainly telling of where the filmmakers stand on the political spectrum. Also included is a pair of deleted scenes, but they serve no purpose aside from making me wish the entire movie was left on the cutting room floor.