BASIC

Content -3
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: March 28, 2003

Starring: John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, Taye Diggs, and Harry Connick, Jr.

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Audience: Older teenagers and
adults REVIEWER: Joseph L.
Kalcso BASIC, starring John
Travolta, is shot in a lush
tropical setting with heavy
rain pouring down steadily
throughout most of the movie.
This soggy, brooding military
murder thriller will no doubt
be enjoyed by some, but its
confusing twists and turns
take place at breakneck speed,
and its occasional muffled
dialogue and stream of
obscenities may frustrate
many. A small army detail is
dropped off by chopper in the
Panamanian rain forest to
conduct a military training
exercise, but something goes
terribly wrong along the way
and only two of the seven
soldiers in the patrol
apparently make it back alive,
one of them badly hurt.
Assigned to conduct the
criminal investigation is the
relatively inexperienced, but
highly motivated Lt. Julia
Osborne, played by Connie
Nielsen. Lt. Osborne's
commanding officer (Timothy
Daly), however, wants to get
it over with and get the case
wrapped up as soon as
possible. To achieve this
goal, he will need a crack
interrogator to extract the
truth from the two surviving
servicemen who have totally
clamed up. Enter John Travolta
as DEA agent Tom Hardy, a
hardened and cynical retired
Army Ranger veteran whose
copious drinking ways and
murky past paints him as a
black sheep of sorts. Hardy
initially draws nothing but
contempt from Lt. Osborne who
wants to get the job done by
the book, but Hardy proceeds
to dazzle the Lt. with his
interrogation skills and
psychological manipulation of
Dunbar (Brian Van Holt), one
of the two survivors holding
the secret to the truth. As
the case appears to be solved,
Osborne finds one last piece
in the puzzle which does not
quite fit, and after
overcoming Hardy's spirited
resistance to any further
investigation, they both
decide to dig deeper into the
matter. This
conclusion-followed-by-a-new-lead-followed-by-a-new-conclusion
scenario repeats itself
several times, each time
reconstructing the events
leading to the murders from a
different perspective, and
ultimately settling on one
final conclusion, or is
it? Unfortunately, by now the
audience has most likely
checked out of the loud, soggy
script just too exhausted and
confused to care. Probably not
since the gripping cat and
mouse game played by Michael
Caine and Christopher Reeve in
DEATHTRAP, has another movie
had as many twists and turns
as BASIC. Where DEATHTRAP,
however, presented the
deceptive behavior of the
movie's characters in crystal
clear fashion, and left enough
time to flavor and consider
the ramifications, in BASIC it
is a blurry, frantic rush from
clue to clue, and lead to
lead, all under a backdrop of
so much rain, thunder,
gunfire, and explosions that
it is hard to understand the
dialogue at times, much less
to appreciate and analyze the
evidence. Travolta once again
overplays his role as the
cocky DEA agent, but Connie
Nielsen balances it out by
doing a serious, credible job.
Samuel L. Jackson as the hated
Sergeant Nathan West is almost
laughably strident in his own
role, and as campy as
Travolta. The filmmaker should
have given more shading to his
character and more things for
Jackson to do. Going right
along with the plan, Giovanni
Ribisi (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN)
as Kendall, the wounded
survivor who admits to being
homosexual, decides to follow
Travolta and Jackson right
over the top himself, but his
performance is a little less
predictable. Although BASIC
has a dominant moral worldview
with an anti-drug message,
there are some brief
homosexual references and
other objectionable elements.
The military violence is
strong, but, except for a gory
scene where one man vomits
vast quantities of blood after
being poisoned, not gory or
extremely excessive. Beyond
the violence expected from
such a genre as this, the
dialogue is littered with more
than 125 obscenities and
profanities, plus some brief,
explicit sexual talk. There's
also a scene implying that
Hardy and Osborne take time
out to fornicate. Ultimately,
it's the language that carries
BASIC over the top into the
realm of excessive crudity.
Drastically cutting down on
it, and preferably eliminating
it, would have gone a long way
toward making this movie more
palatable to mature
audiences. Please address your
comments to: Amy Pascal,
Chairman Columbia
Pictures John Calley,
Chairman/CEO Sony Pictures
Entertainment 10202 West
Washington Blvd. Culver City,
CA 90232-3195 Phone: (310)
244-4000 Fax: (310)
244-2626 Web Page:
www.spe.sony.com/

Rating: R

Runtime: 98 minutes

Address Comments To:

Content:

(B, C, Ho, Ab, LLL, VVV, S, A, DD, M) Mild moral worldview about a military murder investigation which turns out to be an anti-drug investigation, John Travolta's character sings, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, except Jesus", and man admits to being homosexual and talks about "rednecks" and "homophobes," but he turns out to be one of the villains, as well as some immoral activity, such as male/female leads engage in brief sexual banter and movie later implies they fornicated; about 110 obscenities (including 50 or so "f" words), 15 strong profanities, three light profanities, talk about rednecks, and vomiting blood; implied fornication, man admits to being homosexual, and brief crude sex language; no nudity; very strong action violence includes military training, several versions of a shootout between military personnel on an intense training mission during a hurricane (including shots to the head), explosions, villain gets shot to death, narcotics officer threatens to shove the head of an uncooperative man into a propeller blade, and man coughs up vast quantities of blood after being poisoned; implied fornication and man admits to being homosexual; upper male nudity and obscured upper female nudity during a street carnival of some kind; alcohol use; smoking and references to people selling drugs; and, deception and lying.

GENRE: Mystery Thriller

B

C

Ho

Ab

LLL

VVV

S

A

DD

M

Summary:

BASIC stars John Travolta as DEA narcotics investigator Tom Hardy who investigates the apparent murder of a sergeant, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and several Army Rangers during an intense training exercise in Panama. Despite some positive elements, BASIC is a soggy, brooding military murder thriller with excessive foul language and a scene where one man vomits vast quantities of blood after being poisoned.

Review:

BASIC, starring John Travolta, is shot in a lush tropical setting with heavy rain pouring down steadily throughout most of the movie. This soggy, brooding military murder thriller will no doubt be enjoyed by some, but its confusing twists and turns take place at breakneck speed, and its occasional muffled dialogue and stream of obscenities may frustrate many.

A small army detail is dropped off by chopper in the Panamanian rain forest to conduct a military training exercise, but something goes terribly wrong along the way and only two of the seven soldiers in the patrol apparently make it back alive, one of them badly hurt. Assigned to conduct the criminal investigation is the relatively inexperienced, but highly motivated Lt. Julia Osborne, played by Connie Nielsen. Lt. Osborne's commanding officer (Timothy Daly), however, wants to get it over with and get the case wrapped up as soon as possible. To achieve this goal, he will need a crack interrogator to extract the truth from the two surviving servicemen who have totally clamed up.

Enter John Travolta as DEA agent Tom Hardy, a hardened and cynical retired Army Ranger veteran whose copious drinking ways and murky past paints him as a black sheep of sorts. Hardy initially draws nothing but contempt from Lt. Osborne who wants to get the job done by the book, but Hardy proceeds to dazzle the Lt. with his interrogation skills and psychological manipulation of Dunbar (Brian Van Holt), one of the two survivors holding the secret to the truth. As the case appears to be solved, Osborne finds one last piece in the puzzle which does not quite fit, and after overcoming Hardy's spirited resistance to any further investigation, they both decide to dig deeper into the matter. This conclusion-followed-by-a-new-lead-followed-by-a-new-conclusion scenario repeats itself several times, each time reconstructing the events leading to the murders from a different perspective, and ultimately settling on one final conclusion, or is it?

Unfortunately, by now the audience has most likely checked out of the loud, soggy script just too exhausted and confused to care. Probably not since the gripping cat and mouse game played by Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP, has another movie had as many twists and turns as BASIC. Where DEATHTRAP, however, presented the deceptive behavior of the movie's characters in crystal clear fashion, and left enough time to flavor and consider the ramifications, in BASIC it is a blurry, frantic rush from clue to clue, and lead to lead, all under a backdrop of so much rain, thunder, gunfire, and explosions that it is hard to understand the dialogue at times, much less to appreciate and analyze the evidence.

Travolta once again overplays his role as the cocky DEA agent, but Connie Nielsen balances it out by doing a serious, credible job. Samuel L. Jackson as the hated Sergeant Nathan West is almost laughably strident in his own role, and as campy as Travolta. The filmmaker should have given more shading to his character and more things for Jackson to do. Going right along with the plan, Giovanni Ribisi (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) as Kendall, the wounded survivor who admits to being homosexual, decides to follow Travolta and Jackson right over the top himself, but his performance is a little less predictable.

Although BASIC has a dominant moral worldview with an anti-drug message, there are some brief homosexual references and other objectionable elements. The military violence is strong, but, except for a gory scene where one man vomits vast quantities of blood after being poisoned, not gory or extremely excessive. Beyond the violence expected from such a genre as this, the dialogue is littered with more than 125 obscenities and profanities, plus some brief, explicit sexual talk. There's also a scene implying that Hardy and Osborne take time out to fornicate.

Ultimately, it's the language that carries BASIC over the top into the realm of excessive crudity. Drastically cutting down on it, and preferably eliminating it, would have gone a long way toward making this movie more palatable to mature audiences.

Please address your comments to:

Amy Pascal, Chairman

Columbia Pictures

John Calley, Chairman/CEO

Sony Pictures Entertainment

10202 West Washington Blvd.

Culver City, CA 90232-3195

Phone: (310) 244-4000

Fax: (310) 244-2626

Web Page: www.spe.sony.com

In Brief: