‘‘I wouldn’t worry about your mom killing you tomorrow !’’
War is Hell, and Uwe Boll rides through its purgatory gates astride a steed snorting Napalm. Beelzebub bearing down upon his incarnation of the battleground of Vietnam, neatly dress-aged in South Africa to recreate the landscape of an uncompromising environment, where mankind had to experience one of humanities darkest days !.
Even the staunchest of Boll bashers cannot berate the accomplished final product on display here. No sensationalised propaganda, nor egotistical appropriation of pay cheques to the detriment of delivering what both film financiers and film goers anticipate. This then is dedicated film making. Budget Boll is at his best making the most of what is available without just serving up ladles of alleged fantastical Nazi gold to glaze a turd. One that many a fee festering cohort use him for in furthering themselves in the ways of private health plans, and Californian neighbours who pimp their rides off the hard sweated blood savings of regular folk just looking for honest entertainment !.
Stand tall, and stand proud Uwe, as with 1968: Tunnel Rats you have delivered a dark day of reckoning with shining aplomb. Much in the same way he re-stoked the Eighties embers of horror with the startling grim horror that is Seed (2007) here he has applied the grittiness of the War Action movie from the same period style that the Italians did so well. Perhaps then that as in recent years with the likes of Fabrizio De Angelis and Antonio Margheriti being re-appreciated for their work twenty years on, the time of Uwe Boll will find a place in the fan base of movie lovers in the future, free to view such films on merit rather than by blind prejudice !?.
The movie focuses on a corps of new recruits joining camp on duty in Vietnam, assigned to flushing out the Vietcong from their maze of lethally trap infested underground tunnels. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Hollowborn, as played by now regular Boll recognisable Michael Paré, these grunts must grow up very quickly and become accustomed to their surroundings in order to just live long enough to see the next days dawn. Hollowborn’s rules are simple, kill all of the Vietcong before they kill you !. Any disagreements within the ranks and he dishes out a lesson in respect, by donning boxing gloves and punching out the lights of any dissenters. From Streets Of Fire (1984) to this jungle heat Michael Paré has re-established himself as a sound character actor, and here as a seasoned army man he puts in a very creditable cameo.
It would have been easy for Director Boll to have simply glorified the American soldiers storm trooping the jungle and wiping out the evil Vietcong, but instead he amps up the interesting factor by portraying both sides of events. Encapsulating the horror of war from two perspectives, ultimately each as nihilistic as the other. The young American soldiers driven on by their call to arms to protect and serve their country against the communist threat, and the Vietcong savagely stood firm with stories of their women raped and slaughtered by the arrogant invaders of their lands.
Incredibly the entirety of the movie pretty much takes place during a twenty four hour period. The new troop of young soldiers arrives to witness the immediate reality of their situation as Lieutenant Hollowborn orders a captured Vietcong hung at height from a tree. Steely eyed and staunch in his vocal order to see the execution through, as the enemy sniper was responsible for killing a multitude of his men, the outcome is violently abrupt and visually unpleasant in its finality. It is but an entrée for the blood and visceral carnage to follow, as served up by German goremeister Olaf Ittenbach. Another of Uwe Boll’s creative regular entourage now, and welcomingly so as Ittenbach knows how to deliver realistic gory effects that sell a scene without wincingly poor CGI used by most in modern film.
Once the American soldiers uncover the Vietcong underground labyrinths, and delve down into them, things get quickly out of control and the body count mounts up like an all night showing of the ‘Friday The Thirteenth’ movies. Down in the dark depths of the claustrophobic tunnels the Vietcong have the advantage, and the traps that are laden throughout are cruel and unforgiving to even the most experienced. Body piercing bamboo spikes, wired explosives, water traps are all on the menu as the American soldiers press on deeper into the maze in order to kill the enemy. Above, below and around every corner is another surprise and even if the traps are sprung a Vietcong aggressor awaits in the dark to attack at close quarter with a bladed knife. Most startling death befalls an unfortunate American soldier, who breaches the tunnel system and briefly gets to see the light of day, popping his head up out of an escape hole only to be met by a speared bamboo shoot that punctures his neck from entry point to exit point, making for a jaw dropping visual that delivers the swiftest tonsillectomy ever !.
As Hollowborn’s men pursue ‘Charlie’ underground the Vietcong counter attack above as they take the American encampment by surprise under cover of darkness. Bullets fly along with bloody squib bodies as casualties soon mount on both sides, but it is the Vietcong that are best prepared for battle. Michael Paré gets his moment to eat bullets and spit blood before meeting his ‘B’ movie brethren beyond this life.
Big ups then for Director Uwe Boll for showing what he truly is capable of as he produces a platter of truly palatable film making. A cast of virtual unknowns amidst a South African setting that flawlessly doubles for the jungle of Vietnam, all delivering workmanlike performances at the behest of a Director who clearly wants to produce a solid piece of Action cinema from an era that delivered many a great film. The outcome is definitely worth your time.
There’s no Hollywood bravado nor happy rainbow coloured ending, just a great cluster bomb conclusion with a bleak resolution that accentuates the futility of war. From start to finish Boll’s anti war exclamation mark kicks like a kangaroo having its nut sack attacked by fire ants !.
Review Paul Cooke / Source PAL Region 2 UK DVD
1968: Tunnel RatsDirector: Uwe Boll
With: Michael Paré, Wilson Bethel, Adrian Collins,
Scott Cooper, Mitch Eakins, Eric Eidem,
Brandon Fobbs, Jane Le, Scott Ly, Rocky Marquette,
Garikayi Mutambirwa & Nate Parker