Southern Comfort

1981

Southern Comfort

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 16

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,591
User image

Southern Comfort Photos

Movie Info

A handful of part time soldiers unwittingly turn a field exercise into a miniature war in this offbeat action drama from writer and director Walter Hill. A group of National Guard reservists are sent to Louisiana on a chilly weekend for war games exercises. None of these weekend warriors seem especially happy to be there, especially laid-back Spencer (Keith Carradine), tightly-wound macho man Reece (Fred Ward) and transplanted Texan Hardin (Powers Booth). While making their way through swamp country, the reservists discover their maps are out of date and they've become lost. Rather than march back to camp and start over, they decide to "borrow" several canoes they've found by the banks of the bayou, which should put them back on track. When a Cajun local catches the soldiers stealing his canoes, Stuckey (Lewis Smith) fires a few rounds in his direction; for the purposes of their exercises, the Guardsmen have been given blank shells, so Stuckey imagines this is a harmless way to scare the man off. However, the Cajun soon returns fire -- with real bullets. After Poole (Peter Coyote) is killed by a shotgun blast, the Guardsmen find themselves lost in a place they do not understand, surrounded by angry men determined to drive the unwelcome visitors off their land at all costs. A taut and atmospheric action film which is also serves as an intelligent and evocative metaphor for America's role in the Vietnam war, Southern Comfort also features an excellent score by guitarist (and frequent Walter Hill collaborator) Ry Cooder. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast

Fred Ward
as Reece
Lewis Smith
as Stuckey
Les Lannom
as Casper
Alan Autry
as Bowden
Brion James
as Trapper
Allan Graf
as Hunter
Ned Dowd
as Hunter
Rob Ryder
as Hunter
Greg Guirard
as Cajun Couple
June Borel
as Cajun Couple
Orel Borle
as Cajun Dancer
Jeannie Spector
as Cajun Dancer
Marc Savoy
as Cajun Musician
Frank Savoy
as Cajun Musician
Dewey Balfa
as Cajun Musician
John Stelly
as Cajun Musician
View All

Critic Reviews for Southern Comfort

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (1)

Audience Reviews for Southern Comfort

  • Dec 28, 2015
    If not Walter's best, then certainly one of, and curiously not that well known/appreciated. Southern Comfort works on many levels; as a parable of American attitudes toward war in general, (with allusions to both the Vietnam and Civil War along the way), and as an exploration of the social, cultural and political crucible that threatens to boil over when you're least prepared. However you look at it there's much to be had in this very well crafted, insightful and provocative thriller about the latent paranoia and mistrust that seems to pervade American societies. The ending is an absolute classic.
    Super Reviewer
  • Jun 01, 2013
    "Deliverance Goes to War"... or whatever it is you do in the Army National Guard does. Man, I reckon it's safe to say that it doesn't matter who you are, if you spot someone while on the river in the South, you had best keep paddling, because even if you're just from another part of the state, you're crossing through the wrong territory, as this film's tagline will tell you. I'm going to tell you right now, "It's the land of hospitality... unless you don't belong there", is an awesome tagline, but it doesn't exactly help us southerners in fighting our stereotypes, nor does it help the irony in the fact that anything called "Southern Comfort" is hardly all that comforting. Okay, I guess Southern Comfort liqueur can comfort people, but alcohol will get to you after a while, and outside of that, in you've got the name "Southern Comfort" associated with a 2010 documentary dealing with transsexuals, and even something as recent as that Brad Paisley song that all of the blacks are calling racist for whatever reason. Forget y'all, I like my home, but I guess not every bit of it is terribly comforting, at least according to these people, two of which ended up on "Deadwood", and therefore know a thing or two about how bad rural thugs can get. Man, Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe, if you think that South Dakota is bad, just wait until you work your way into the real South. Granted, this film came out a long time before "Deadwood", but either way, the point is that this film certainly has its thrills, even though it's hardly without its share of aspects that are about as disconcerting as something with the name "Southern Comfort". I'm not asking that this thriller give, or at least crowbar into insight into our fair deal of characters who stand ready for a potential slaughter, but development is as thin as it is in plenty of other films of this type, being all but surprisingly compensated for by distinguished charisma throughout the cast, but not so much so that you don't feel as though you stand to have more of an investment within this story, especially considering the fact that without flesh-out, more than a few of the leads come off as clichés. Of course, conventionalism hardly ends with the characters, because even though I'm hardly asking for anything unique in an action thriller of this nature, it's all so very formulaic, not necessarily to where you can predict absolutely everything, yet nonetheless to where predictability ensues and shakes up your investment in the story as it unravels to its expected events. Again, I'm not asking for much out of this film, but it seems a bit too undercooked and formulaic for its own good in a lot of ways, and that's to be expected in a film like this, as opposed to something that you can't afford to have in a thriller this conceptually high in tension: slow spells. Granted, slow spells are very limited in quantity, and when they finally show up, they very rarely retard momentum so much that entertainment value falls out, yet you're likely to fall out time and again throughout this film as it begins to find itself dragging its feet a bit and meandering its way to the next height in intensity. Needless to say, these slow spells allow to meditate upon the natural shortcomings that this film is in no way pretentious enough to try and obscure, but could have actually been obscured enough by more meatiness for a stronger, maybe even somewhat rewarding final product to be crafted. As things stand, the film kind of lazes out and lets the minimalism of its story call your attention more toward the development shortcomings, conventionalism and slow spells that aren't too severe, but severe enough to join natural shortcomings in driving the final product into a relatively underwhelming picture, in spite of its having only so many flaws. Still, with all of the blows to momentum, the film powers on as adequately thrilling and ultimately decent, maybe not to where you'll remember it for all that long of a period, but certainly to where you'll find yourself tensed up by anything from the sharp action to, of all things, the score. Veteran bluesy roots rocker Ry Cooder, of all people, was called in to provide this film's score, and didn't exactly do an especially outstanding job, - doing only so much with kick, let alone all that much originality - yet was strong in his effort, delivering on a stylishly bleak roots flavor that not only fits this film's theme of danger in Cajun territory in an enjoyable musical fashion, but boasts a grippingly ominous atmosphere that helps in flavoring up the thrills of this film, though not quite as intensely as the action. Sure, there really aren't too many action sequences throughout this meditatively steady, almost psychological thriller, but when the slow spells finally break and tension comes to a head, you can expect action sequences with that kind of classic Walter Hill intensity, complete with frantic and tight staging that may convolute things for some, but thrill more than anything. When tension picks up, the action sequences are bound to excite, while the more meditatively intense moments in between the battles go complimented by ominous score work by Cooder, and by the time we get to those moments, the slow spells slip your mind a bit, even if they never completely dissipate from your memory, which isn't to say that the slow spells are ever really that slow, because whether it's dragging its feet or keeping you on your toes, the film keeps up some degree of intrigue. For this, credit is due to director Walter Hill, who may not pay any mind to settling the sting of the shortcomings within the film's substance, whether they be natural or in Michael Kane's, David Giler's and Hill's flawed script, but meditates upon conversation enough to keep quietness from ensuing to worsen the slow spells, when not meditating upon the claustrophobia of this film dangerous environment in order to give you a consistent sense of tension that keep entertainment value adequate. The film is hardly so tense that you're thoroughly compelled by a borderline, if not decidedly strong thriller, as this film's problems are still too hard to deny as blows to memorability, but when the film is, in fact, occupying your time, it holds enough intrigue to earn a reasonable degree of your investment, secured by, of all things, the performances. Like I said, this film pays so little attention to characterization that it provides only so much exposition for our characters, who are written almost as clichés, so the leads behind this thriller could have easily fallen short as mere components to the thrills, but the performers do more than this film deserves, never being necessarily outstanding, but with their own genuine charismas that distinguish each character, and often bond in order to sell the comradery that anchors the human weight to this ensemble piece. Certainly, there isn't so much human weight to the film for the final product to compel as dramatically effective as surely as it proves to be effective as a thriller, but the performances define the characters and reinforce a sense of consequence that Hill's direction establishes firmly, and while what is done right in this film isn't so well-done that the film stands a chance of rewarding as generally strong, there is enough unexpected inspiration behind this thriller for it to border on rewarding, and ultimately stand as entertaining enough to stick with you, even if it's only for so long. Overall, underdevelopment and conventionalism are present, as expected, and slow down momentum, though not as much as the relatively limp spells that give you the opportunity to meditate upon the thin areas in this film's story concept, whose limited shortcomings, both natural and consequential, proves to be enough to drive the final product just short of bona fide goodness, though not as short as I expected, as there is enough effectiveness to Ry Cooder's score work, intensity to the action, intrigue to the directorial atmosphere and inspiration to the charismatic performances that go bonded through convincing chemistry for Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort" to come close enough to all-out goodness to retain reasonably high decency and stand as a rewarding, if slightly forgettable Southern Gothic thriller. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 24, 2013
    Another gritty action film from Hill (48 Hours, Last Man Standing) that pits a group of National Guard soldiers on a routine training exercise against some local Louisiana residents. Unlike the similar 'Deliverence' the soldiers are actually a group of assholes and the residents, although brutal in their behaviour, are shown to be the ones who are abused and misunderstood. Although Hill states it's not an allegory for Vietnam it's difficult not to see the similarities, especially when the two survivors arrive in the small village towards the end. A nice ensemble cast with no big name stars but reliable actors this was a tense film which had me shaking my head at the sheer ignorance of the arrogant soldiers.
    David S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2012
    Redneck national guard trainees 'borrow' some canoes from redneck cajuns. Deliverance style action ensues. Great cast delivers with the always reliable Walter Hill directing. A hidden gem from the 80's.
    Wu C Super Reviewer

Southern Comfort Quotes

News & Features