Now I’m sure when everybody saw the theme was “Un-American Vietnam War Films”, they said, what? With all of the peacenik anti-war messages most of them have, besides John Wayne’s The Green Berets, how many Vietnam War films are pro American?
Okay you got me. I admit it. I phrased the title that way to cynically manipulate search engines. What I meant, when I said “Un-American”, was actually “non-American” as in Vietnam War films done outside of the United States.
In John Woo’s Bullet in the Head, Ben (Tony Leung), Frank(Jacky Cheung) and Paul (Waise Lee) are three friends growing up in the mean streets of Hong Kong. Together they are part of a gang where, in an act of retaliation, they accidentally kill a rival gang boss. They flee to Vietnam where they’ve heard you can make a killing in the chaotic lawlessness caused by the war. They’re not particularly concerned about the war itself. It’s not their problem.
They’re corrected of this misunderstanding almost immediately when a street bomb, targeting a South Vietnamese officer, destroy the load of contraband they brought to make contact with the Saigon underground with. Things go from bad to terrible from until they’re fleeing to the countryside only to get captured by Vietcong.
This was an interesting film. It had quite a bit of Woo’s lyrical brutality but at the same time it was far more cynical. Budget wise the Vietnam in this film was about as convincing as the one in Full-metal Jacket, I think most of the money went into explosives, but that is not the point.
Our next film, The Odd Angry Shot, tells the story of a platoon’s tour of duty from the Australian perspective. While I was aware that Australia was part of the coalition serving in Vietnam, I didn’t know any of the details. Because of this I found this film very interesting.
For the most part for me this film felt very much like a cross between Platoon and M*A*S*H (Though any illusions this is a comedy go away after the camp is shelled by enemy mortar fire in the first fifteen minutes) For the most part what makes this is the work is the film’s tone. While obviously not keeping any secrets about the horrors of war, beyond one soldier’s cynical commentary about how nobody at home cares about the war, it doesn’t really have an overt opinion. Because of this the main message that comes out of this is war is boring. Like M*A*S*H, most of the film focuses on all of the things the soldiers do to pass the time between missions, from a weekend whoring in Saigon, to betting on a tarantula/scorpion fight, and of course lots of beer. Even the missions are treated like another day to work (except, of course, for that pesky ten percent mortality rate)