Lowdown: Clint teaches a group of useless kids how to be marines.
If you were to ask me who are the contemporary movie directors to which I look up to the most, the first name I would come up with is probably going to be Clint Eastwood. Yet, as 1986's Heartbreak Ridge demonstrates, Eastwood took his time becoming a great director; there was a learner in him before Unforgiven.
Heartbreak Ridge is a comedy/drama/war film in which Eastwood directs himself. This time around he's a disgruntled marine: the veteran of numerous campaigns, his tough marine like behavior off the battlefield has earned him a minor role in a supply unit. It's a chicken and egg thing, with his failure at the army driving his personal life to even deeper depths.
Then, however, opportunity knocks and an old unit no one cares about requires a sergeant. Eastwood jumps on the opportunity, only to find the squad he has been given is a squad of no good boys who expect nothing of themselves and from whom no one expects much. Yet Eastwood is not the one to avoid a challenge, and despite a mighty opposition made of idiot superior officers and the disapproving soldiers under his command he manages to turn his squad into men. Men of such pedigree that when the call comes, they go out and easily invade a country, raise the American flag, and kill themselves some commies for dessert.
The film that reminds me the most of Heartbreak Ridge is Top Gun: yet another film where a reckless dude comes of age under the supervision of mature superiors, and yet another film where coming of age means being good at dispensing the world of the Russian nemesis through severe war mongering. I guess the world we used to live in was different before the Berlin Wall came down, but still it has to be said that Heartbreak Ridge's spirit is particularly stupid. Couple that with relatively low production values (at least by today's parameters), and you get yourself a rather forgettable stupid film.
That said, in its favor it has to be said that unlike Top Gun, Heartbreak Ridge does not take itself too seriously. Time after time Eastwood makes jokes on his own behalf, as if asking us to take everything with a wink. If you do, Heartbreak Ridge passes by as an easy and pleasantly silly watch.
Representative scene: Eastwood teaches his squad in a rather creative manner the virtues of an AK-47, the rifle favored by their opponents.
Overall: By Eastwood's standards this is bad, but it also shows where Eastwood came from. 2.5 out of 5 stars, I wonder how much of the film is Eastwood's own personal story.