Rating: R for excessive war violence
Run Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes
When the trailers and ads kick off with the statement, “From acclaimed director Ridley Scott and renowned producer Jerry Bruckheimer…”, you know you’re in for action with a Capital A. But Action isn’t nearly enough to propel this blessed-with-good-timing war adventure into anything more than a high-testosterone snoozer.
“Black Hawk Down” is the heroic account of a group of elite American fighters who are sent to Mogadishu, Somalia in the fall of 1993 as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Their objective seems simple enough at the outset: seize the top lieutenants of Somalian warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid in order to subdue the state of civil war that is ravaging the country.
Sad, but true – this is a real story about real soldiers who bravely served up their honor, and in some cases their lives, for their country. Unfortunately, the bulk of the story is focused on blazing machine guns, crashing copters, and billowing clouds of choking dust that obscure the relentless warfare.
Ridley Scott knows his way around a solid characterization. He directed Russell Crowe’s Maximus Meridus (“Gladiator”) with an abundance of combative thrills and enough individual development to make him alluring. Not so here. The big names attached – Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Elf-of-the-moment Orlando Bloom (“Lord of the Rings”), Tom Sizemore – exude manly charm (as a veritable beefcake parade), but the character confusion is so comprehensive that I didn’t even recognize McGregor until well after the halfway mark. To add insult to underdeveloped injury, the editing is a choppy mismatch of battle scenes that do little to engage the viewer in either the skirmish or the storyline.
To be fair, there is an effortless excitement that goes along with armed Somalian militia terrorizing the trapped victims of a downed Black Hawk. Not to mention the accidents themselves, which are hair-raising in the extreme. But if I’m required to care about these eager, patriotic boys-in- fatigues, I need names, faces, and a modicum of personal information. Leave it to uber-producer Bruckheimer (“Pearl Harbor”, “Armageddon”) to leech the life out of what could have been an extraordinary testimony to our industrious armed forces.