Anyone expecting Inglourious Basterds 2 will be sorely disappointed with this by-the-book, old school, behind enemy lines movie. And anyone hoping for something that bears comparison with Kelly’s Heroes or The Dirty Dozen will be underwhelmed by the star-less cast and distinctly average plot. However, director Ryan Little manages to overcome the handicaps involved in making a low-budget war film, and produces something that is far slicker and more involving than it has any right to be. The action and characterisation might not match the movies that inspired it, but the budget is all on-screen and, once it gets underway, War Pigs is well-paced and beautifully-shot.
Luke Goss, playing through gritted teeth throughout, is Jack Wosick, a captain who is made the scapegoat after a disastrous operation kills his entire squad (including the sergeant whose dog-tags Wosick carries for the duration). Called upon by the unconventional Major Redding (Mickey Rourke, whose facial peculiarities are given an in-story explanation) to whip the somewhat untested “War Pigs” unit into shape before leading them on a potentially suicidal assignment, what follows is divided roughly half-and-half into drill film and mission movie.
The opening twenty minutes are rather talky and dull, but the training segment that follows manages to pack in a fair bit without overstaying its welcome, and helps to offset the fact that there clearly isn’t enough money to allow the operation itself to be as expansive as the filmmakers would doubtless have liked. There is very little humour and the ironies of Full Metal Jacket are but a distant memory, and the script itself is a writing-by-numbers collection of as many war movie clichés as the writers could afford. But Dolph Lundgren is everything you’d expect as the grizzled French Legionnaire who is tasked with keeping the eponymous “War Pigs” together, while Goss can happily leave memories of his pop career behind him, and even though the parts are rather overly defined but indistinctly drawn, the young supporting cast are a likeable and more than capable bunch who give their characters just about enough personality to make you care about their fates. Meanwhile, the music has an incongruously dated feel that belies the crisp, modern visuals, although taken in conjunction the effect is not unpleasant.
There are no war-is-hell messages here, in spite of a couple of (rather ineffectual) references to Saving Private Ryan, nor is the story idiosyncratic or charismatic enough to compete with anything better-funded or more lucidly-written. But if your expectations are suitably lowered and you like your war films as straightforward as they come, there is plenty to enjoy and although the ending is startlingly abrupt, it is also a satisfying conclusion given what has preceded it.
Special Features: TBC
WAR PIGS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RYAN LITTLE / SCREENPLAY: ADAM EMERSON, STEVEN LUKE, ANDREW KIGHTLINGER / STARRING: LUKE GOSS, DOLPH LUNDGREN, CHUCK LIDDELL, NOAH SEGAN, RYAN KELLEY, MICKEY ROURKE / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 14TH