Written by / 2/11/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , , , ,

STRATEGIC SIDE-CHARACTERS OF KUBRICK'S 'FULL METAL JACKET'

The Expendable Unsung Heroes of FULL METAL JACKET
The irony of the helmet sharing BORN TO KILL with a peace symbol represents more than Pvt. Joker’s theory behind donning such a blatant contradiction in the middle of a raging war…

Peace Helmet began with...
FULL METAL JACKET, the second to last feature directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, though hypnotic and powerful, isn’t always sure what it is, exactly, or where it’s going; especially in the middle after progressing awkwardly into Vietnam while all but forgetting the incredible first act at Boot Camp...

Not only the best part of the film, but a kind of short film... with a beginning, middle and end... starring Drill Sergeant Hartman, played by R. Lee Ermey who, in real life was an ex soldier discovered for APOCALYPSE NOW while living in the Philippines. He provides a more realistic and helpful yet still tough Drill Sergeant in the 1978 Vietnam flick THE BOYS IN COMPANY C,  the first movie to use the peace sign on the helmet. But peace doesn’t sell to everyone…

The Boys in Company C
Living up to the FULL METAL title, Adam Baldwin steals the second half as Animal Mother, a hardcore grunt who takes the war seriously, never giving in to the message that war is not only hell, but altogether pointless... And he has a purpose: to kill or be killed...

Instead let’s center more on a few obscure, underrated performances… obviously not including Vincent D’Onofrio’s Private Pyle, mesmerizing as Kubrick’s lost soul Boot Camp character, nearly equal with the monopolizing Ermy… These particular (originally blogged during Memorial Day) JACKET vets hardly get mentioned, or recognized, for their input that drives the story forward…

John Terry as Lockhart
John Terry might look like one of those standard/stock handsome actors that come and go, which he is, usually, but as Lt. Lockhart, head of the Journalist unit during the start of the Vietnam sequence, he’s beyond effective doing what makes up most of the Kubrick war epic (or any Stanley film): that being, long monologues, which probably took a million takes to get "just right." One gets the feeling that Terry's kind of professional actor's actor didn't annoy Kubrick too much... but who knows, only God, about the infamously picky director...

John Terry on LOST
Either way, in JACKET, through Terry we learn the rules of covering the war, from the inside – what’s right and not right to print so that this unpopular “police action” seems legitimate: not an easy task. When Matthew Modine’s Private Joker questions the rather subdued Lockhart about his safe position, the lieutenant points out the fact he had his ass in the grass, and doesn’t want to go back there. Like Adam Baldwin but in reverse, Terry’s Lockhart sticks firmly to his guns… or in this case, typewriter. As chief of propaganda, and a character probably created to be disliked, he stretches beyond a cardboard cliché and really holds his own in a Kubrick vehicle.

Kieron Jecchinis as Crazy Earl
Then, once Joker and a character mentioned later, go from the safety-zone as writer and photographer to where the bullets are flying, a fitfully nut named Crazy Earl gets lost in the bravado of both Animal Mother and a nameless gun-happy grunt who shoots local paddy workers (this stocky, tough-guy actor, Tim Colceri, was originally slated to play, and was in the role for eight months, of Sgt. Hartman that R. Lee Ermy made quotable and legendary) from a gunning helicopter during a completely overblown and overdone scene bringing Modine to the front lines where, still a journalist, a series of interviews not only take place, but take us right out of the reality of war...

Thus a linear motion picture that had, after the first two acts, potential to equal the Oscar Winning PLATOON, which, though far from perfect and with a subject a bit too close to writer/director Oliver Stone, remains a character-driven vehicle unlike JACKET, that meanders from genre to genre. Meanwhile, a similar looking (of the helicopter assassin) Ed O'Neil as Touchdown, explains strategic exposition for Pvt. Joker as they walk towards the mobile barracks, yet not lasting as long as Earl, played by Kieron Jecchinis, sitting next to a dead “gook,” providing an image that turns the troop introduction into a chilling (if pretentiously so) moment of truth.

A doomed Ed O'Neil
Also to note, it’s Earl’s long-take frown turned hopeful grin, after blasting a few unlucky stragglers leading to the song “Surfin’ Bird” in jovial irony, that bridges an important gap between strategic battles, kind of like the opening credit sequence of the somewhat underrated MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI playing the uptown Motown classic "Heat Wave" while (deadly) American Huey copters are flying.

Beginning of the end...
Alas, Crazy doesn’t make it all the way. But his departure gives the boys real vulnerability for the last ultra-violent stretch, making up for the pseudo documentary third-act template that doesn’t always work as Arliss Howard’s Cowboy, a nice guy but definitely not a leader, is put in charge of a showdown between an unseen sniper who can’t be properly located...

That's until scene-stealer Adam Baldwin steps forward, providing Kubrick his most effective camera movements right alongside: this is where we finally have ourselves a bonafide "old school" war flick hero to root for despite the fact JACKET is... like most anti-war ventures, attempting to veer beyond your typical G.I. JOE cliché barnstorm... a hero-less journey into fear, and beyond.

Thumbs-Up for Rafterman
And last but not least, photographer Pvt. Rafterman, played by Kevyn Major Howard, a Pluto to the goofy Joker and/or second banana in the second segment…. Actually there are three parts: boot camp; the safe-knit journalist unit full of dialogue and eventually, and quickly, brought into semi-action during the infamous Tet Offensive; and then the full-on Vietnam sequences, not located at the usual jungle setting ala APOCALYPSE NOW but instead existing within burnt-out villages harboring dilapidated buildings reminiscent of war pictures in WWII France or Germany or on episodes of, say, television's classic COMBAT starring Vic Morrow.

PAINT IT BLACK single
Rafterman is a sort of loyal pup that Modine’s Joker has to protect, although he gets a bit too Gung-Ho, unrealistically rushed for his originally innocent character. But looking an eerie cross of the boy next door and a sneaky weasel, it’s nice having Rafterman there during the “Nam” half, wonderfully catapulted/bookended by Nancy Sinatra’s sexy THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING and The Rolling Stone’s effectively climactic PAINT IT BLACK, which brilliantly concludes the picture after the exhausted survivors sing the Mickey Mouse song as they march further into unknown purgatory that is, or rather, was, The Vietnam War.

Brian Jones painting black
FILM RATING: ***1/2
TRIVIA: Propaganda chief John Terry plays the famous Bond sidekick Felix Leiter in Timothy Dalton's first 007 outing THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, and if you blink you'll miss him as he's very underwhelming... not boring with a purpose, like in FULL METAL JACKET: he'd be best known two decades later as the good doctor Jack's dad on LOST...

The next and last Dalton venture had the LIVE AND LET DIE Leiter, THE FLY original actor David Hedison, who has a deathly honeymoon with the last blonde roommate on THREE'S COMPANY and a hungry bionic shark...

Meanwhile, Kevyn Major Howard wasn't always so sweet a character... although he gets really angry at the sniper (during a supposedly ambiguous Anti-War Flick, we're supposed to feel for the Vietnamese Shelley Duvall who kills half the beloved cast during the 11th hour): in fact, Howard plays victim to two tough guy legends in two sequels: by Clint Eastwood in the fourth DIRTY HARRY flick, SUDDEN IMPACT, and Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH II, the first thing Jimmy Page did, darkly scoring the picture under Cannon Films, after Led Zeppelin tragically disbanded.
Not exactly a review, but more of a glimpse into several, unlike Adam Baldwin, shown above, underrated, side-side characters
Tim Colceri consolatory if hammy role as a violent Huey gunner after R. Lee Ermy replaced him as Sgt Hartman
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