‘Jarhead 2’ is a competent war tale

This is clearly a movie about war and there will be some casualties and it won’t be pretty. The pretty faces will be few because this, “Jarhead 2: Field of Fire,”  is a straight-to-video follow-up to a more popular movie.

Introductions are short and brief, but they really hardly matter. The troops are being shot at. We see each man’s name and rank and where he was from in white captions using fonts that imitate an old typewriter. Before we even understand who is the lead character, we have our first casualty. A man loses his leg, with blood spurting out into the air and he dies.This is the war and its very permanent consequences.

Then the music kicks in and we’re at Camp Leatherhead in Afghanistan. We’re remind we’ve actually been there 13 years. The introductions continue. The commanding officer of Camp Leatherhead, Major Gavins (Stephen Lang)  greets Corporal Chris Merrimette (Josh Kelly of “One Life to Live” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”).  Merrimette is in charge of a unit who will be taking a dangerous journey through hostile territory in order to resupply a remote outpost which lies on the edge of Taliban-controlled regions.

On the team is Cpl Danny Kettner (Bokeem Woodbine), Lance Corporal Danielle ‘Danni’ Allen (Danielle Savre), Private Rafael Soto (Jesse Garcia), Private Justin Li (Jason Wong) and Private Khalid Hassan abu Faisal (Ronny Jhutti) , a Afghan National Army who is bilingual. To get you in the proper mind set, let’s set up the archetypes. Kettner (Woodbine was in the 1996 “Freeway” and last year’s “Riddick”) is the black guy who should have led the team and immediately shows animosity toward Khalid–black guy against Arab guy (London-born Jhutti might be familiar to “Dr. Who” fans) is almost not like prejudice. No one else seems to show animosity toward Khalid.

Danni (Savre was the cheerleader friend of Hayden Panettiere in “Heroes” who was killed early on) is the woman minority. Soto is the Latino guy  who can’t help but ask Danni about the trim nature of her bush in the chatter as they proceed. Li is that East Asian guy whose most memorable scene is wearing a straw hat with flowers early on.

My husband correctly predicted that Li would be one of the early casualties.

As Danni bets the best of Soto in the scuttlebutt about her beaver, suddenly a Navy SEAL Special Operations Senior Chief Fox (Cole Hauser) appears. His crew is gone, he’s on foot and he needs to extract a package: the heavily veiled Anoosh (Cassie Layton).

Almost immediately, the team is ambushed. And people die. Soto freezes and Li died a heroic death trying to save him. He doesn’t get a last gasp for hair, but Li does get a close-up and his face isn’t bloodied. Soto will redeem himself.

Only three of these people will survive as this mission changes from supplying an outpost to taking Anoosh to a UNHCR conference where she will speak out about equal education. Khalid is, at first, the only person who recognizes her and he convinces her to reveal her mission to this team.

In Anoosh we have the answer to the question asked at the beginning of a movie when we are told that “a man has a lot of choices and these choices are rarely perfect” and that a man, “he wants to save this world” but then a man joins a group, in this case the Marines which is unnamed in the introduction. We’re then told, “he will be part of something bigger than himself” and learn to know his weapon better “than his own dick.” The question is: Why is he fighting; why is he dying; what’s the f*cking point?

Directed by Don Michael Paul (“Company of Heroes”) with a script written by Berkeley Anderson and Ellis Black, this is a by-the-numbers war drama about Marines on a mission. It aptly reminds us that our men are still in Afghanistan (and Iraq) fighting a war.

The 2005 “Jarhead” was directed by Sam Mendes and starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris Cooper. That movie was based on the 2003 memoir of U.S. Marine Anthony Swooford. Swofford’s novel gets its name (as does the original movie) fom the haircut that the Marines favor which makes their heads resemble jars nd thsu jarheads is slang for Marines. The movie “Jarhead” covers both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The movie’s ending is far from happy and more disturbingly melancholy.

“Jarhead: Field of Fire” ends on a more positive note, or at least a more pro-military service resolution. In that respect, it is a less thought-provoking movie.

“Jarhead 2: Field of Fire” features good performances and special effects and Paul directs using various things to keep us interested, but thank goodness he deserts the shaky-cam early on.

Kelly brings a certain gravity and authority to his role: He served three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq as an Army Ranger before beginning his acting career.

Jarhead 2: Field of Fire was available on Blu-ray Combo Pack including Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on August 19, 2014, including both an R-rated and Unrated version as part of the DVD Originals line from Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production entity of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.  The film will also be available on Digital HD two weeks early on August 5, 2014.


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