MPI // 2013 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // September 7th, 2013
War is hell, and so is sitting through this movie...
Mickey Wright (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2) and Dalton Joiner (Austin Stowell, Dolphin Tale) are a pair of soldiers serving in Vietnam. It's 1969 and the guys are getting ready to spend a week relaxing. Then Dalton gets a "Dear John" letter from Jane (Aimee Teegarden, Prom), his gal back home, and the duo decides to go AWOL to win her back. When they arrive in their sleepy little town, they learn that she is now part of an anti-war movement and wants nothing to do with someone fighting for an evil cause. In the meantime, Mickey falls for another member of the group, Candace (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies), and has a hard time resolving his romantic feelings with his duty and dedication to the military. Eventually, someone comes up with the idea of fleeing to Canada, and it's up to our heroes to decide which is more important-pride, principle, or the rice patties of Southeast Asia.
Actor turned first time feature filmmaker Danny Mooney sure does want to start things off with a bang. Not only does his debut, Love and Honor, want to tackle the whole pro-peace position of the late '60s (complete with some mandatory period details and dated elements), he wants to out-Nicolas Sparks the noted author of such sloppy, turgid romances as Dear John, The Lucky One, and The Last Song. Crammed in between are some decent performances, a nice level of character development (though the individual arcs are a bit predictable), and a nice attempt at showing the reality of service, combat, and the cultural conditions circa 1969. So why doesn't the movie work better? Why do we feel like we've seen this all before, and done better?
Well, part of the problem is the central dilemma. Should Mickey and Dalton be caught as deserters, they'd be hung for treason. Yet this really phases no one, and since we've never really been prepared for the level of affection the latter has for Jane, now called "Juniper," his drive to reconnect with her seems a bit insane. And why, exactly, does Mickey tag along? Because that's what buddies do? Because we need him back with the peaceniks in order to fall for Candace and then make a stand between duty and an escape route to the Great White North? Maybe the movie would work better if our heroes were not AWOL, but actually back home after their tour. Then introduce them to the anti-war people, reestablished Dalton's link to Jane, make Mickey and Candace a parallel romance, and then turn everything into a question of ethos and political/personal philosophy.
As it stands, Love and Honor is all set-up for some predictable, preordained pay-off. It's just too talky, to lost in a lack of anything really relevant or novel to say that it just decides to regurgitate the same '60s selling points over and over again. We want more confrontation, more individual acts set against a changing social landscape, but since Mooney doesn't have the budget or aesthetic skill set to capture same, he settles for dozens of duplicate heart to hearts. And then there is the legitimate lack of chemistry between our bros and their babes. Hemsworth, who is used to relating to a relative cipher (he's engaged to Miley Cyrus, after all), makes a better potential paramour than Stowell, which is sad since it's Dalton's actions which land us here in the first place. If you want to avoid all the trappings of a topic area to concentrate on the love story, it better be a good one. Love and Honor is not.
Offered by MPI in a decent high definition package, the Blu-ray transfer of Love and Honor is pretty good. The 2.35:1/1080p HD image is colorful, detailed, and lacking any significant flaw. There's a depth on display that you don't except from a movie like this and a nice balance between the exterior and interior shots. As for the sound situation, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is okay, if not great. We get some back channel action during the opening sequences in Vietnam, and the speakers do spark up whenever Mooney offers up his mix-tape version of late '60s radio. Most of the time, however, the aural aspects of the film are concentrated toward the front. As for added content, there is a minor making-of and a trailer. Frankly, that's more than the film deserves.
Love and Honor is not bad, per se, it's just routine and unoriginal. By now, we've seen hundreds of hopeless romances where characters are willing to sacrifice anything to be with the one they (supposedly) love. This time around, the setting and sentiment are just as old hat.
Guilty. For the Lifetime TV crowd only.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13