Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Vietnam War Movie #11

Synopsis: Suspiciously-mature-looking soldiers get hooked on world’s worst casino game.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), this critically acclaimed, extraordinarily powerful motion picture tracks a group of steelworker pals from a Pennsylvania blast furnace to the cool hunting grounds of the Alleghenies to the lethal cauldron of Vietnam.”

What Did I Learn?: If you ever decide to get your jollies by forcing captives to playing Russian roulette, don’t let them put more than one round into the cylinder to “play each other”.

Really?: 1) Holy shit, how long is that wedding ceremony and hour? 2) Aren’t De Niro, Walken and Savage a bit old to be playing freshly-recruited grunts? (If they’re supposed to be Army reservists – De Niro has sergeant’s stripes, while Walken is a corporal – this isn’t made clear, and wouldn’t they have been called up for service long before this?) 3) I had a great deal of trouble believing De Niro would pay thousands of dollars to play Russian roulette (or test a round!) even if he wanted to talk some sense into Walken. 4) Obviously, the Viet Cong and the NVA did some truly sadistic things to American GIs, but is there one documented case of anyone being forced to play Russian roulette? Considering the script started out as a screenplay about gamblers headed to Vegas to play this game, the whole thing smells like bullshit to me.

Rating: Much like The Maltese Falcon, this film was a tough review for me. While The Deer Hunter is considered to be a classic (it won Best Picture, and a shitload of other Oscars), I have to admit that I don’t particularly like it. Yes, it is beautifully filmed, and both De Niro and Walken deliver outstanding performances. That said, the movie is far too long and it feels that way – the wedding reception, the first deer hunt, and the funeral just go on and on. More importantly, I simply didn’t believe any of the Russian roulette stuff, either in the POW holding pens, or in Saigon, and I couldn’t believe that De Niro or Walken would behave the way they do. 6.5/10 stars.

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