Forgotten Fridays : Heartbreak Ridge

Thanks for checking out our Forgotten Fridays feature. This is a feature to review some older films that maybe you have forgotten about or maybe never got around to seeing that we just want to share. They may not be old, maybe not forgotten, but they are not new. Just fun to share.

Today, we review Heartbreak Ridge

Genre: Drama, War

Produced and Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason, Mario Van Peeples, Everett McGill, Moses Gunn and Boyd Gaines

Released: December 5, 1986

Set in 1983, Tom Highway (Eastwood) is a well-decorated career Marine who has served in Korea and Vietnam. Considered to be too much of a troublemaker as he nears mandatory retirement, he is reassigned to Cherry Point, North Carolina – his old stomping grounds, an assignment he requested but had been put off for years. Once he arrives at Cherry Point, Highway is given the task to get the Recon unit into shape, as they have been slacking off since thier previous instructor retired. Among the unit is Corproal ‘Stitch’ Jones (Van Peebles), who has already gotten on Highway’s bad side due to an earlier event where he knowingly stole Highway’s bus money simply due to his thumbing his nose at all authority, especially military. Jones is the least of Highway’s problems, as Highway faces oppositionby Major Malcolm A. Powers (McGill) and Staff Sergeant Webster (Gunn) who don’t care for his training methods. In fact, Recon team is supposed to lose in various training excercises – a fact which Highway wants to change in case they are called to battle someday. Coming back to Cherry Point also means re-uniting with his ex-wife (Mason) who isn’t too thrilled with his presense either.

Clint Eastwood – and his character Sergeant Thomas Highway – has some of the most memorable (and colorful) lines in the film. We ususally expect that in most of Eastwood’s movies, but because he does them so often, they give off memorable scenes and setups for later scenes. It’s also understandable why some people would have a problem with Highway, while others admire him.

Boyd Gaines as Lieutenant Ring – whose background is more ROTC – is one of those who like Highway’s no-nonsense attitude. Although green and somewhat geeky, Highway has contempt for the Lieutenant, but warms up a little to him when he discovers the Lieutenant will either back him up or cover for him.

And then there’s a built up side character nicknamed The Swede, who is built like a current day Brock Lenser. Swede, we are informed by the Recon team, had been put in the brig for “disorderly conduct” and serves as the muscle and intimidation for the team. They want Swede (football player Peter Koch) to beat up Highway. It doesn’t go that way…

Stitch Jones gets on the nerves early on- but since the film takes the POV of Highway, this is understandable. In addition, this character has a bit of an arc that is nice to see. It’s also clear that Jones, with guitar and song, is the ringleader of the recon team.

I don’t want to pick on Marsha Mason and the whole ex-wife dating her bar owner boss scenerio. But I have to just a bit. Not enough time is given to really warrant the subplot in my view. Also, Highway comes a borderline stalker (!) in regards to his ex. He’s not being a threat, but he is being a bit irritating. He works his charm, and she almost falls for it in one scene, and throws him out of her house. Still, I want to play fair, because it isn’t the weakest part of the film.

That weak point is actually the last third of the film, with Grenada. It’s not that it is disappointing in terms of a payoff, for this is the sort of thing the team has been training for. It is however, a turnoff, however, when it feels anti-climactic, and when they are pinned down under enemy fire, there’s a joke that is paid off (literally) that is more of a yawner- and really didn’t belong here.

It isn’t supposed to be action-packed in this segment, but that’s okay. But I’m not sure why they needed the joke. It’s like making fun of a dangerous threat. Once you don’t take the danger seriously -especially when one of yours is wounded or dying- how can an audience take the threat?

The film is sometimes overlooked as being one of Eastwood’s best films- but it is. There is a running theme throughout the film in regards to respecting authority. It is the only film I’ve seen in where the protagonist challenges those in authority over him when they did not “earn” it in his view, while his authority is challenged by those who see the main character as party to that same authority that he challenges. It’s what makes the film interesting to watch and revisit because its themes are universal. It also deals with the military, a subject which is both fascinating and relatable on some level, because audiences have either served or know someone who has or is.

As for the rest of this Forgotten Friday review, you know the drill- don’t you? Here it is:

Since all of these Forgotten Friday reviews are going to be what I would already give a high rating to, I had a Tv, Rent or Buy scale going on, but it would seem that an overwhelming majority of my picks get a BUY rating.

Have a safe, great and blessed Memorial Day Weekend everyone.

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About Darren

"Revenge is sweet and not fattening." Alfred Hitchcock

7 thoughts on “Forgotten Fridays : Heartbreak Ridge

  1. Obviously I love this film for no other reason than Clint Eastwood is attached, besides that there are many reasons to love this film besides Clint.

    Clint is da man!

  2. I have a special place for this film in my heart the real story is about a unit I served in with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Clint Eastwood is an American treasure the guy always portrays the grit that Americans believe is the backbone of our nation.

    Love you too Canada just feeling patriotic on memorial day weekend

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