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The Beast (The Beast of War) Reviews

Page 2 of 10
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

July 23, 2014
Man, now that title is how you sell a movie! By that, I am referring to the full title of "The Beast [u]of War[/u]", because the simple main title of "The Beast" is dull and generic... which, of course, makes it even more fitting for this film. Okay, maybe the film isn't that bland, but it's not quite as exciting as you might expect a film with a title as hardcore as "The Beast of War" (Tee-hee, that was a cute rhyme... Oh yeah, I sound like I'd be into hardcore action films) to be, although it is about as exciting as a Kevin Reynolds film can be. I guess Reynolds did, in fact, have a bit of an edge to him before Kevin Costner came in from out of nowhere with his tights and quarter-baked British accent, although it would appear as though he's always had trouble with working with accents. If the title doesn't pump you superficial, action-loving Americans up, then the concept of an invasion of Afghanistan ought to, up until you find out that this is just the Soviets' invasion, something definitely not reflected in these soldiers who seem about as American Army as... Kowalski. Jokes about generic American soldier surnames aside, I just appreciate the irony in the fact that Reynolds co-wrote a dramatization of a Soviet attack on the States in "Red Dawn", and then he made what appears to be a dramatization of Americans infiltrating the Soviet army, just in time for them to take on the Middle East. I knew we somehow got to Afghanistan first, although I wish our entrance was a little more satisfying, for although this film is decent, it's a bit held back by a couple of factors.

The pacing of the film is nothing if not sloppy in its leaping between problematic extremes, for when it is not too tight for its own good, it meanders, under the weight of dragging to William Mastrosimone's writing, and of a certain delicacy, if not dreaminess to Kevin Reynolds' direction which gets to be mighty dull, due to a thinness of material on which Reynolds' steady directorial hand might thrive. Even in concept, this film can't seem to figure out if it wants to be a harsh military thriller, or a nuanced study on the depravity of man during wartime, thus, it ends up being both overblown and dramatically lacking at the same time, with limitations to a potential for dramatic bite which go exacerbated by expository shortcomings. Like I said, just as this film drags its feet, it puts much less attention into the fleshing out of its leads than it should, being devoid of immediate development, and thin with gradual characterization in a manner which either tells you little about the leads, or superficializes leads of potential great layers. As things stand, all of the unlikable traits of the central focuses of this grimy character study feel less like genuine flaws to relate to, and more like blows to one's investment in leads who are instrumental in the heart of this drama. Reynolds tries to make up for these shortcomings in resonance by stressing other dramatic aspects, to where subtlety ends up collapsing under the overwhelming pressure of heavy-handed visuals and overblown storytelling which only make the shortcomings all the more glaring. Meandering, thinly drawn and wrought with missteps in subtlety, this film may have a little more conviction to it than Reynolds' later, more successful projects, but it is an early and prime example of how the director can get carried away with his ambition, yet still fails to deliver on enough competence to transcend other errors in filmmaking. The final product gradually loses momentum, until it collapses as forgettable, yet it never loses so much steam as to completely distance, holding some inspiration, and a fair bit of endearing potential.

I criticize even the concept of this narrative for its lack of realization as both a tense military thriller and a gritty portrait on dehumanization on the battlefield, but both thematic extremes of this subject matter carry potential, whether the film be a chilling game of military cat-and-mouse, or an intriguing character study which finds itself done a degree of justice by William Mastrosimone. Mastrosimone's script is messily paced and all too often fairly misguided with its characterization, which is both undercooked and superficial, but only up to a point, before Mastrosimone taps into a certain inspiration which gives nuance to characters who aren't truly brought to life until a talented cast delivers with its material. Granted, this material is a little lacking, enough so to hold the performances back, - even to where Russian accents are peculiarly not required - but only so far, for most all of the leads carry a dramatic intensity which make their performances arguably more memorable than the final product itself. Whether it be George Dzundza as a questionably brutal commander, or Jason Patric as a frustrated voice of reason, or Erick Avari as an Afghan communist who fears his comrades may betray him, believing him to be a traitor, or Stephen Baldwin as a well-intentioned, yet gullible solider, or Don Harvey as your garden-variety military man's man, each lead, if not certain supporting players, drive the soul of this human drama with more effectiveness than the storytellers. Of course, it's not as though the storytellers consistently fumble, for Kevin Reynolds at least knows how to deliver on style, particularly when we come to action sequences that, while not exactly spectacular, carry enough tension to draw you into the more visceral aspects of this thriller. As for the more dramatic aspects, Reynolds makes a lot of mistakes, whether it thoughtfulness so extreme that it dulls, or intensity so extreme that subtlety is lost, and yet, his audacious attention to unnerving visuals and a highly atmospheric and chilling score by Mark Isham is recurring enough to keep engagement value adequate, and occasionally gripping. Momentum falls time and time again throughout this somewhat misguided thriller, but it is never truly lost, as there is enough style and resonance to entertain, even if it can't quite compel as thoroughly as it could have.

With the beast soothed, the final product limps as underwhelming, under the weight of slow spells to the telling of an uneven story, and too much questionable characterization to compensate for subtlety issues which too glaringly reflect an ambition that is met with enough inspiration in writing, action and direction for Kevin Reynolds' "The Beast", or, as I prefer, "The Beast of War" (Man, that title is cooler than the film itself) to stand as a reasonably biting military thriller, even if it is kind of forgettable.

2.5/5 - Fair
September 19, 2013
Tidily executed, solid anti-war movie that is heavy on the symbolism but also oddly overlooked in the scheme of things. Alas, it was released but a couple of months after "Rambo III": then the most expensive movie ever made, and one dealing with the Russian involvement in Afghanistan in an um... quite different way. At least bloody Bill Medley wasn't on the soundtrack of "The Beast."
No matter, veteran George Dzundza (him off "The Deer Hunter", one of the truly great anti-war films) plays the central role of a driven, borderline psychopathic tank commander; and he leads a talented young cast (including a Baldwin) who hold their own in the heat.
The only thing that bothered me about the cast was the lack of any hint of a Russian accent from any of the lads in the tank crew. Isn't this what actors are trained to do? Even in Hollywood?
Second-time director Kevin Reynolds handles the action well, and is as admirably even-handed as the liberal-minded source play demands. It seems very strange to me on watching this that his next movie would be "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves". But then, there's those bloody American accents amongst Europeans...
Anthony J.
June 10, 2013
YOU WILL NEVER FORGET THIS MOVIE! It's the perfect example of the failed "win the hearts" bull you see in real American footage going on in Afghanistan in 2012 with the U.S. Troops. Just like American Troops who failed in Vietnam just after the French got their be hinds kicked out!
Pan C.
March 19, 2013
There's only so much filmmakers will do to actors playing their own soldiers. There's more freedom when portraying the other guys. Which is why a movie like The Beast is about Russian forces. What makes it such a great movie though is that it manages to make everyone human. There are no monsters in this film, just realistically portrayed human beings who are more evil than others.

The movie, despite its story being a tad action movie-like, still tries to portray the setting as the actual reality of war, and succeeds. That goes further than the story. The special effects are all so realistic and fluent that you don't even think about them being there. The film also deals with real linguistic and cultural barriers.Halfway the movie switches gears a bit, going less heavy on the realism, but also presenting a nice perspective change. And in the end, I must simply conclude that the whole thing is definitely worth watching.
December 7, 2012
Would like to see at some stage.
Christian C

Super Reviewer

November 11, 2012
The film tries too hard to be poigniant and it just doesn't work. None of the actors really connected or performed well. Nevertheless, an interesting true-life story, but not really compelling...especially post-911.
September 21, 2012
Great movie must have seen it a few times and still enjoy watching it
September 3, 2012
This is one strange war film, partially because there are no American characters. It feels like an allegory or a myth of sorts. Some parts are cheesy, but most of it works.
March 8, 2012
This was a welcome surprise -- a good, if forgotten war movie from the '80s, NOT by Oliver Stone and NOT about Vietnam. Recommended by anyone interested in something that's both smart and different.
October 30, 2011
A great little movie George Bush should have watched before he decided to invade Afghanistan. It's also only one of two movies I know of (the other the ghastly Rambo III) set in Soviet occupied Afghanistan. It's strictly for war movie buffs though; it does not sugarcoat the barbarities both sides exhibited. It does show the unique worldview of the Afghan mujahadeen, which requires them to show hospitality even to their enemies when that enemy requests their sanctuary. It also shows how the Afghan people eat superpowers for breakfast. (I think the US is Kaptain Krunch.)
Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins

Super Reviewer

October 21, 2011
'The Beast', whilst a visceral and intense film, lacks the scope, depth and power of war films such as 'Platoon' and especially 'Apocalypse Now'. Also, it borrows a lot from the plot of 'Platoon' which preceded it by two years; the troops being divided by their tyrannical superior.

But my main issue with the film was the 'Russians'' American accents. At first I listened closely to every nuance of the Commander's voice, quickly realising he was 100% American; no effort had been made by any of the 'Russian' crew to attempt a Russian accent. This tarnished the integrity of the film, but I do praise the authenticity of the Afghans however, with Steven Bauer amongst others speaking in the native language with subtitles.

Like 'Rambo III', which also opened in 1988 (one year before the conflict officially ended), the film is a political statement about the war and is clearly for an American/Western audience.

As well as the unsavoury depiction of the particular cruel members of the Russian troops, the political stance of the production is explicitly revealed with quotes such as 'How is it that we're the Nazis now?' and 'I tried to be a good soldier, but you can't be a good soldier in a rotten war'.

Ultimately, 'The Beast' gives a compelling and at times graphic insight into a war that doesn't have the cinematic coverage of Vietnam or WW2. Its dark tone and sense of vast wilderness achieved through effective cinematography and fitting audio make it a good cause to allocate 1 hr 40 minutes of your day to. (Certainly better than 'Rambo III')
September 25, 2011
A Primal, Gritty, Surreal, And Violent War film that is full of action both in a physical and psychological sense, it's one of the more original and surprising films about the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Watcher in the Dark
August 20, 2011
This film got lost lost in the shuffle back in the 80's much to the loss of military movie fans. Based on the play "Nanawataii!" by William Mastrosimone, the story centers around a Soviet tank crew that gets lost in the Afghan desert after destroying a Pashtun village. The remaining villagers set out to hunt down and destroy the tank and it's crew.

George Dzundza plays the tank captain who remembers his part as an 8 year old in WWII and the brutality he faced. He is Soviet through and through and is a brutal man. Jason Patric plays the Soviet everyman who has doubts about the war and the brutality of it. Taj who becomes the Khan (tribal leader) after his brother is killed in the attack is played very effectively by Steven Bauer. Filmed in Israel, the other main character is the landscape itself, barren, dry and unforgiving.

In the film, the Russians speak english and the Pashtun fighters speak in subtitled Pashtu. The american actors learned to speak the language phonetically and do a very good job.

The women of the village want to go with the men to fight the tank but as it is with Afghan tradition, they are told they aren't allowed.

The plot twists help to keep the viewer guessing as to the final outcome which has several surprises.

A first rate film that never got it's due. Highly recommended.
June 25, 2011
Excellent war film, you feel as if you're actually in the tank with the crew.
September 19, 2010
Insulting that no critics go back and review films of this caliber.
September 17, 2010
This is a brutal and graphic depiction of a lost tank and a small group of Mujahedeen. The acting isn't great, but none of the performances are distractingly bad. Although the movie has a very realistic feel to it, there are a couple of plot points that kill the realism. All in all this is an enjoyable flick.
August 21, 2010
saw most of it on tvo :P ok movie. really bad effects like when people are shooting guns or when there are explosions.

Super Reviewer

April 28, 2010
One of the most unheard of films, very under rated.
Christian Z.
May 16, 2010
Great war film from the perspective of the Russians fighting the Muhajadin in the Russo-Afghan War. Real T-62 Russian tanks and authentic uniforms and realistic battles, no heroes in this one well one or two, anyway greatly underrated and largely unknown...
Diego E.
February 1, 2010
Very interesting war/drama film.
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