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Review: 'Special Forces' misses more than it hits

More video game than cinema, this French film starring Djimon Hounsou and Diane Kruger is mired in its own mayhem.

October 11, 2012|By Robert Abele
  • Djimon Hounsou and Diane Kruger in "Special Forces."
Djimon Hounsou and Diane Kruger in "Special Forces." (Entertainment One )

It's not only Americans who can make leaden, video game-style exercises in dumb war action.

French import "Special Forces" whips up a lot of the same swirling camerawork, macho theatrics and fast-cutting mayhem we expect from testosterone-fueled Hollywood as it tells the tale of a tight-knit band of Gallic soldiers — led by a stoic Djimon Hounsou — tasked with rescuing a war correspondent (Diane Kruger) from Taliban captivity in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Writer/producer/director Stephane Rybojad likes his Islamic fundamentalists childishly ruthless, his Afghani victims helpless and his first-person-shooter heroes full of spit, vinegar and martyr-laced bravado.

Though subtitled for English-speaking audiences, it can seem as if there are more story-orienting bits of information on screen — identifying what organization characters belong to and what location they're in — than there is dialogue to read. (All that's missing is a body count tally in the corner.)

The gunfight action, meanwhile, is so monotonous it dilutes the few moments when Rybojad successfully wrests sustained emotional tension from the carrying-out of a dangerous mission. The performance scale operates in shades of combat shoutiness, manly wryness and wounded suffering.

If only characterization had been as plentiful as weaponry and ammunition.


"Special Forces." MPAA rating: R for language and some violence. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

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