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Oliver Stone takes a political conflict and use it as the backdrop for a character study of a careless, cynical man who barely survives and uses the conflict as an excuse to continue his career and get some kicks in this film. This is largely successful during the first hour and a half of the film as James Woods is a magnetic performer and the observations made in the screenplay are funny and insightful. Then the film becomes a relatively standard political thriller and Stone's bleeding heart liberal ideology overwhelms the picture as a whole with whole screeds of dialogue sounding like long speeches that Stone had composed while particularly incensed about the state of the world. The film would have done well to stop at the ninety minute mark but because Stone keeps going he loses sight of the terrific film he could have made.
Financially struggling photojournalist Richard Boyle, James Woods, finds himself out of work and unable to find employment anywhere as a result of his erratic behavior and womanizing. His girlfriend and the mother of his child leaves him and he is arrested because of unpaid fines and faults with his car. His friend Doctor Rock, Jim Belushi, pays to have him released from prison and the two head to El Salvador to cover the political conflict occurring there. Boyle reunites with his ex-girlfriend and mother of his lovechild Maria, Elpidia Carrillo, while a far-right party begins to take control. His fellow photojournalists, including the earnest John Cassady, John Savage, take risks in order to take impressive photographs but the cynical Cathy Moore, Cindy Gibb, represents the views of the American government. Boyle eventually decides that he wants to return to the United States with Maria but because of decisions made by the government he is separated from her and is arrested.
My father compared the style of most of the film to that of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) but there is so much more of interest in this film because rather than being stoned all the time and unpleasant our male best friends here possess a degree of intelligence. While Boyle is a complete mess and insults everybody he meets before asking them for money or an impossible favor we can sense that he is in some ways a good journalist because he has the gall to do those things. He carries himself with the confidence of a respected journalist but has the shamelessness to go after a good image in a way that a ‘respectable' man would not. Rock is even more desperate as he does not have any of his friend's abilities and appears to live off a man already lacking in funds. Both are womanizers in some capacity and while it may be hard to believe that a man who looks and acts like Woods would attract so many women he does have a strange intensity in this film that would make desperate women flock to him. They are detached from the environment around them during this section of the film and that is the way that it should be as they are hardboiled reporters who have seen all of this before.
When the film drifts into political rhetoric in it's last act it maddened me as Stone took what was a perfectly good, entertaining film with likable, realistic characters and turned it into a seminar. Woods is never less than fantastic throughout the film but it is painful to watch him have to move through the big speeches that Stone has written for him and make them sound natural. I would have preferred to have seen Boyle abandon his girlfriend and return to the United States with Rock still penniless and looking for action somewhere else. The end of this film resembles that of Missing (1982) which was a perfectly fine film but it was a completely serious drama about the relationship dynamic between two people with opposing political views. This film does not suit that sort of ending and I so wanted the film to not fall into the traps that other Stone films have.
Despite it's flaws the film is still worth watching for it's great first three quarters and the brilliant central performance.
We do not learn about this period in time — the Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1991) — enough in school. This film permits the viewer to see both the FLM (Left-Wing) and Right-Wing sides of the conflict in grisly fashion. The mass grave scene is nauseating. The cavalry charge is beautifully done. James Woods and Jim Belushi have an entertaining friendship whose banter alone is worth the viewing. I'd say this is a must-watch, but not for the faint of heart.
Is it just me, or does this film drag on.. Not to mention it's quite confusing.
Stone opts for a script less political and more concerned with thrills.
I never really understood why James Woods has such a cult following but maybe I'm starting to see it. He does play a bit of a lad in this. It's a good film, particularly if you interested in central American history.
La Guerra Civil de El Salvador y el asesinato del Cardenal Romero fueron una buena coartada para el debut de Oliver Stone dirigiendo peliculas de denuncia. Un potable James Woods en el papel de un periodista ubicado en el peor lugar y peor momento.
Down in the jungle of Salvador, James Woods are going crazy in this totally chaotic political-based-on-a-true-story Oliver Stone movie. The story and the dirty politics of USA on the time is relevant and interesting. The overall plot and acting fades into a blurry chaos of generals and hookers.
Watched this on 3/12/15
Oliver Stone is not a mad blinded by patriotism and hence his films are politically correct, poignant and truer than any historic texts. In his rather messy directorial debut with a slow first half, Stone still manages to make his point, capture an epic realism about a mostly forgotten struggle of confused interests where the only true losers are the civilians. By the end of it, all I can feel for the film is respect and it shows the nature of politically correct vision that is to follow in many of the other Oliver Stone films. It's music, cinematography and mad violence are all fascinating and although it's acting is equally messy, it adds some realistic essence to the film.
There's plenty of substance, the problem is Stone's insistence on filming it like a documentary which leaves the tone floundering.
Oliver Stone's finest hour. James Wood's is a career best bundle of energy as real life US photo journalist Richard Boyle who gets caught up in the El Salvador civil war in the early 1980s. Boyle was a gonzo nutter who talked fast, screwed fast and moved fast. A complete jerk whose arrogance sees him fired and flat broke. The sort of person you should avoid but is just so full of life you have to be around him. The movie like Woods or thanks to Woods moves with a rawness and freshness that I've never seen in any other Stone flicks. While it does have its flaws (communists in a positive freedom fighter light, U.S politicians as sweater around the neck wearing villains), I guess that should be no surprise from Oliver Stone. This film feels so raw and strong and like Woods performance so damn good it's flaws can be easily forgiven. 4.5/5