Case Number 16746

TUNNEL RATS

Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 2007 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 3rd, 2009

The Charge

Hell is for heroes.

Opening Statement

Uwe Boll shifts his attention from video-game-crap inspired filmmaking to Vietnam War inspired filmmaking.

Facts of the Case

Tunnel Rats follows the exploits of a specially-trained American military force in the Vietnam War, tasked with engaging the Vietcong in a maze of tunnels running under the jungle. As far as missions go, this is a pretty sucky one, what with all the tight crawlspaces, darkness, and close-quarter stabbings. But these guys aren't afraid to get all up in there and take it to the North Vietnamese.

Still, it is war and people are going to die. The fragile bonds of friendship the soldiers crafted during their downtime will get torn asunder, when the bullets start flying. There's also lots of war movie clichés!

The Evidence

Let's start off with this right away: This is probably Uwe Boll's best film. Yes, yes that's like saying tapeworms are the most preferable digestive tract parasite, but I don't care who's behind the camera, Tunnel Rats isn't bad.

It's not great either, suffering from some glaring genre conventions that might have been sharp way back when. Dialogue like "Sarge, do you ever get scared out there?" and "War isn't black or white. It's gray." and one of the enlisted guys talking about going home and opening up a burger joint (wonder how he's going to end up after the firefight) doesn't seem fresh. It might be accurate that real GIs likely swapped these lines in between counteroffensives, but on the screen the writing falls flat.

The pacing is also fairly lopsided. The first 50 minutes is dedicated to character development, in an obvious effort to build empathy for these guys when they inevitably meet their grisly end. It's this segment of the film that tends to be overstuffed with the clichés, and while I appreciate Boll's attempts at fleshing out the characters, none of them managed to stand out. This, unfortunately, leads to a disconnect in the violence that eventually does happen, close to the hour mark.

Boll stages the action well and, besides some transparent CGI effects for bullet hits -- which is weird, since there is some fine squib work going on later -- the mayhem works. When the Vietcong attacks (as you know they will), the action is separated into two venues: the jungle and the tunnels. The former features frantic violence from almost anonymous shooters, replicating the "melting into the jungle" aspect of the guerilla campaign. The latter is a surprisingly effective recreation of intimate tunnel warfare. Messing around with cameras in dark, confined spaces obviously runs the risk of having a blurry, indecipherable mess on your hands, especially when there's action to be had, but Boll largely succeeds.

Huh: "Boll largely succeeds." Not often you see those words written in that order.

The DVD is solid. For the tech specs, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and the 5.1 audio aggressive, particularly during the war scenes. Extras: commentary by and an interview with Uwe Boll, deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette.

Closing Statement

It's not a jaw-dropper by any means, but Tunnel Rats is a decent war movie. Don't hate on it just because Uwe Boll made it. Homeboy is certainly responsible for some brutal failures, but this isn't one of them.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Not kidding.

Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 75
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English (CC)

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0970462/combined