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Video Reviews: 'Behind Enemy Lines' picks up the theme of 'no man left behind'

Friday, April 26, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In "Behind Enemy Lines" (), Owen Wilson is Lt. Chris Burnett, a U.S. Navy aviator who is tired of explaining to the folks back home where he is and what he's doing. "Everybody thinks they're gonna get a chance to punch some Nazi in the face at Normandy. And those days are over. They're long gone."

Instead, he's biding his time on the USS Carl Vinson somewhere in the Adriatic Sea. He signed up to be a fighter pilot seven years ago, not a beat cop in a neighborhood (Bosnia) nobody cares about.

That's what he tells Adm. Leslie Reigart (Gene Hackman) when the old man asks why Burnett plans to leave the service. He privately jokes about doing something glamorous -- ferrying Bill Gates around, or keeping rock stars safe in the sky. The admiral, winner of a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross, is disappointed with the once-promising navigator who cannot or will not appreciate how routine prepares men for war.

But everything changes when Burnett and a pilot (Gabriel Macht) are dispatched on a routine reconnaissance mission and end up in a no-fly zone trying to outrun missiles that have locked onto their F/A-18 Superhornet jet. Their plane is hit, they parachute out and land in hostile territory where Burnett is tracked like an eight-point buck on the first day of deer season.

Soon, Reigart is reassuring Burnett, "We're coming to get you, son," even as he finds himself at odds with a NATO commander who thinks a fragile peace treaty is more important than a lone American. The theme of how no man will be left behind, also explored in "Black Hawk Down" and "We Were Soldiers," is one that has taken on special resonance and relevance these days.

Although supposedly inspired by the story of American ScottO'Grady, this doesn't have the weight of a true story behind it, as the other two recent military films do. But it has Hackman and some nifty stunts and toys. Among them is a satellite link that briefly enables the admiral to chart Burnett and his pursuers by heat imagery. It's fascinating and frightening to watch a man on the run and then see ghostly images that represent a dozen armed enemies creeping up behind him.

Wilson, whose bit with Ben Stiller at the Academy Awards was one of the show's highlights, makes a sympathetic protagonist, and Hackman could do this kind of role in his sleep. Director John Moore was hired after producers were wowed by a Sega commercial that aired during the 1999 MTV Music Video Awards. It wasn't long before Moore was directing aboard an aircraft carrier and near the Carpathian Mountains.

"Behind Enemy Lines" grows preposterous by the end, when Everyman turns into Supersoldier. But it gives you what you want, with patriotic patter and razzle-dazzle before the closing credits.

It's rated PG-13 for war violence and some offensive language.

A Sly Move

Does Arnold know about this? Or Harrison Ford?

I'm not talking about The Rock's coronation as the next big thing, but news that Sylvester Stallone will be honored with the "Action Star of the Millennium" award by the Video Software Dealers Association. It will be given July 16 during the opening ceremony of the group's annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Why Sly?

"Stallone has endowed his artistic achievements with excellence and has created some of the most memorable characters in cinema history," says Bo Anderson, VSDA president. "Rocky Balboa and John Rambo are cinema cornerstones in American culture and have become synonymous with courage and rough-hewn integrity.

"Because of DVD technology and the overwhelming popularity of home video, his numerous films will continue to be enjoyed by film buffs for generations to come." Is that a promise or a threat?

As coincidence would have it, Artisan Home Entertainment will release the "Rambo" trilogy as a special-edition DVD on May 28.

Easy Lesson

It's never too late to release a movie onto VHS and DVD when it stars a double Oscar winner named Denzel Washington.

"Hard Lessons" may have aired on television in 1986, but Washington is a sure-fire draw at the box office and video store. It's unlikely that "Hard Lessons," new in stores this week, will do "Training Day" numbers, but it should capitalize on the actor's popularity and fame, probably never higher.

Washington is George McKenna, real-life principal of a notorious Los Angeles high school infested with gangs and drugs. Lynn Whitfield, an Emmy winner for "The Josephine Baker Story," portrays his girlfriend.

"Hard Lessons" was directed by onetime "St. Elsewhere" co-star Eric Laneuville, who was Luther Hawkins to Washington's Dr. Philip Chandler. The 94-minute movie, not rated but suitable for airing on TV 16 years ago, has a suggested price of $14.98 for the tape or DVD.

A Shot at Humor

What does the dentist of the year get? A little plaque.

What game did the dentist play when he was a child? Caps and robbers.

What does a dentist do on a roller coaster? He braces himself.

These are the jokes, people. And the distributor of "Novocaine" sent those three and 13 others to promote the video.

Steve Martin plays a prosperous dentist whose well-ordered existence is thrown into turmoil when a new patient (Helena Bonham Carter) draws him into a seedy underworld of sex, drugs and murder. The DVD includes a mini-documentary about forensic dentistry called "Bitten."

The film, also starring Laura Dern, Elias Koteas and Scott Caan, is new in stores this week. It's rated R for violence, sexuality, language and drug content.

If You Love Lucy

America's love affair with Lucy will take a new turn this summer. That's when eight episodes of "I Love Lucy" from the show's initial season will be released on DVD for the first time.

Video Business magazine reports that Paramount Home Entertainment will issue two "I Love Lucy" DVDs, each with four episodes plus extras such as bloopers, radio interviews with the cast and guest star information, on July 2. Two more volumes will be out in the fall.

You can reach Barbara Vancheri at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or by calling 412-263-1632.

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