A Few Good Men (1992) / Drama-Mystery
MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 138 min.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, James Marshall, J.T. Walsh, Christopher Guest
Small role and cameo: Xander Berkeley, Noah Wyle, Cuba Gooding Jr., Aaron Sorkin
Director: Rob Reiner
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (based on his play)
Obviously, I will be in the minority of people who don't think A Few Good Men is a great movie worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Personally, I find the direction by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, Stand by Me) too manipulative and the storyline full of too many contrivances to buy into fully. Sure, the cast of actors is impressive, but only Jack Nicholson (Batman, Broadcast News) seems to rise above the fodder to breather life into what is predictable fare. In fact, if not for his performance, I doubt I'd really recommend the film at all.
The plot involves two navy lawyers , Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Cruise, Days of Thunder) and Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Moore, One Crazy Summer) who must defend two Marines accused of murdering a fellow soldier in Cuba. Their defense is that they were told to perform a "code red," in which a soldier is humiliated to get them to shape up, but during the course of it, the soldier had a medical condition which resulted in his death. The superior officers in charge steadfastly deny ever issuing such an order.
Admittedly, A Few Good Men has its occasional moments, but is still marred by some lacking screenwriting by first-timer Aaron Sorkin (Malice, The American President) from his play, and unconvincing turns of events. Jack Nicholson's performance leaves a lasting impression, and his two scenes not only gained him second billing, but also a Best Supporting actor as well; it's an amazing feat when you realize that he is onscreen for less than 15 minutes of a 2 hour and 15 minute movie. There are lots of recognizable faces all around, and of course Tom Cruise. I must say that as good an actor as Cruise can be, his performance gets in the way more often than not in this film, as he painfully hams his way through the film posing as a comedian, and a very bad one at that. Only the directing of Rob Reiner and a handful of well-done scenes keep the drama afloat to the point of being credible.
Nevertheless, A Few Good Men may please the masses, but in my humble opinion, it's one of the most overrated films of 1992.
©2001 Vince Leo