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TELEVISION REVIEW : 'Weekend War'--A Danger Zone in Honduras for U.S. Guardsmen

February 01, 1988|DON SHIRLEY

A unit of California National Guardsmen is sent to Honduras for annual summer training camp. The men are supposed to extend a runway, but then they're told to restore a bridge near a town that's 50 miles closer to Nicaragua. When they arrive on the scene, they discover why the bridge needs restoring--it was blown up. Before long, they're involved in a war.

And before long, the Nielsen-measured masses are involved in "Weekend War" (tonight at 9, Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), a TV-movie that actually takes a position on Central American policy.

The screenplay, by Gregory Widen, Dennis Hackin and Steve Hackin, doesn't go so far as to support either the Sandinistas or the Contras. The people who start shooting at the Americans remain nameless and faceless. They could be from either side, or both sides, or they could be drug smugglers.

Whomever they are, the bullets look real. The film makers do a very good job of lulling us into complacency, along with the Guardsmen, before jolting us off the couch at the onset of the inevitable attack.

And the message is real too. The movie specifically condemns the policy of sending National Guard units into such dangerous areas. But by implication, it also questions America's entire military presence in the area.

The message may be stronger because it involves Guardsmen. These men--an architect (Stephen Collins), a doctor (Daniel Stern), a record store clerk (Evan Mirand)--are guys who live next door, as opposed to that separate breed of men called "soldiers" who live in their own encampments.

Actually, there are a couple of real soldiers here too--a major (James Tolkan) and a sergeant (Charles Haid). Their relations with the civilians are strained but surprisingly polite--a nicely subtle touch.

The one bad guy is a crafty embassy official (Scott Paulin). His real-life counterparts may not like this film, and it may well be a worst-case scenario. But director Steven Stern makes it look frighteningly plausible.

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