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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.

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

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